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Fred’s appoints Gardner chief merchant

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Bryan Pugh has resigned as chief merchant at Fred’s Inc. and has been replaced by Mary Lou Gardner.

Mary Lou Gardner

Mary Lou Gardner

Fred’s said late Tuesday that Gardner takes over Pugh’s role as executive vice president and chief merchandising and marketing officer effective immediately. She has served as senior vice president of strategy and project management since joining Fred’s in February.

Pugh joined Fred’s as chief merchandising and marketing officer in March 2015 from Walgreens, where he most recently was vice president of U.S. merchandising, program development and execution. He had started at the drug chain in February 2009 as corporate vice president and chief merchandising officer and left the company in October 2014.

Gardner brings strong merchandising and marketing background with the promotion to her new post at Fred’s. Before coming to the discount retailer, she served as executive director at sales management and strategy consulting firm Market Performance Group from January to December 2015. That followed nearly a dozen years at CVS Health, most recently as senior director of of merchandising for store brands innovation. Prior to that, Gardner had held divisional merchandise manager roles at CVS in such areas as promotions and business development, consumables and general merchandise, inventory management, and beauty and personal care.

Bryan Pugh

Bryan Pugh

“I am happy to announce that Mary Lou Gardner has accepted the position as executive vice president/chief merchandising and marketing officer,” Fred’s chief executive officer Jerry Shore said in a statement. “Mary Lou brings a wealth of leadership experience to the merchandising, marketing, pricing and planning area. She joined Fred’s at the beginning of 2016 as senior vice president/strategy/project management. In this short time span, she has become an instrumental part of the Fred’s team.”

Fellow CVS alumnus Michael Bloom, president and chief operating officer at Fred’s, also cited Gardner’s breadth of merchandising experience in the “many capacities” she served at CVS.

“She excels in the ability to lead and rally a team around a common purpose, which explains her many diverse roles at CVS, where she was called on several times to lead key strategic initiatives,” Bloom stated. “Prior to her time at CVS, Gardner’s unique experience spanned international business, from sourcing to strategy and organizational development across several industries, including health care, banking and higher education. We welcome her increasing contribution to our team’s efforts to build on our strategic investments in the future of Fred’s.”

Overall, Fred’s has 651 discount general merchandise stores, including 18 franchised locations, and three specialty pharmacy-only locations in 15 states in the Southeast. The retailer also has 372 full-service pharmacies within Fred’s stores, including four franchised locations.


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