The optimizer

Over 2007, Shoppers Drug Mart's Michele Slepekis ensured that no opportunity was overlooked when reaching out to the retailer's consumers and beefing up loyalty

Over 2007, Shoppers Drug Mart’s Michele Slepekis ensured that no opportunity was overlooked when reaching out to the retailer’s consumers and beefing up loyalty

Back in 2004, Shoppers Drug Mart was searching for a director of marketing and branding.

Michele Slepekis, says Uwe Stueckmann, who was Shoppers’ VP CRM at the time (he’s now SVP/GM at Toronto-based agency Blitz Direct, Data & Promotion), was the type of marketer he needed: creative, but also fussy about the unglamorous bits of retail marketing.

‘A lot of good retail people don’t get too excited about things like flyers, in-store signage or direct mail, the underbelly of retail marketing,’ he says. ‘They’re excited about store environment and TV spots, the big brand stuff. What Michele brought was a passion for both, and that is rare.’

Once hired, Slepekis quickly proved herself – and her position and responsibilities broadened. Now the final touchpoint for all of the retailer’s marketing before it hits the streets, Slepeksis – who was promoted to VP marketing, branding, creative and advertising last month – and her team of 23 have been responsible for providing a unified approach to Shoppers’ marketing.

She’s at the ‘centre of where the brand intersects,’ says Cossette-Communication Marketing account supervisor Mary Park, who has worked with Slepekis for about a year and a half now.

Over 2007, Slepekis’ goal (she’s also responsible for the Quebec Pharmaprix stores) was to build the drugstore’s pharmacy, beauty and private label divisions, as well as offer more integrated marketing executions customized with the consumer in mind.

She more than succeeded.

She was behind the introduction of new products such as the U.K.’s Boots line, Denmark’s Gosh and the private label Organics into stores to encourage beauty and front shop sales. She worked closely with the category management team to attract prestige beauty brands such as Estée Lauder and Clinique, which continue to be a growth category for the company. And she increased the focus on in-store Look Book, fusing mass and prestige brands such as Crest and Clarins to offer women from age 20 to 60 tips on achievable beauty. The effort successfully drove in-store purchase.

Last month, Shoppers announced a same-store sales increase of 5.2% for the year. Sales for fiscal 2007 increased 8.9% to just under $8.5 billion.

But perhaps her biggest coup was enhancing the brand’s powerhouse Optimum card program by adding more point-earning events, viral campaigns and email blasts to targeted consumers.

Using the Optimum data, she created apt vendor partner programs using DM, viral, in-store, POP and flyers with such brands as Cineplex, Petro-Canada and Indigo to reward customers with points and gift certificates. One example: partnering with Alliance Atlantis to offer movie passes during the summer blockbuster season.

Park says Slepekis’ management style is open, confident and creative, and credits her with ‘understanding the [Shoppers] consumers from a 360-degree perspective.’ Her highlight of the past year? According to Park, it was everything. ‘The amount of marketing activity she’s been responsible for, it’s a huge accomplishment.’

‘She hasn’t done anything to build her profile,’ says Stueckmann. ‘That’s a testament to the fact that brand comes first and everything second. She’s absolutely driven to make that brand succeed.’

Team size: 23

Years at Shoppers: 3.5

While Slepekis originally agreed to participate in our Marketer of the Year poll and issue, she and Shoppers later declined to be part of the cover shoot and interviewed for the piece in accordance with the company’s media policy.

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Overall winner: Unilever’s Geoff Craig

Top global marketer: Cirque du Soleil’s Mario D’Amico

Top integrated marketer: LCBO’s Nancy Cardinal

Top entertainment marketer: Nintendo of Canada’s Ron Bertram