Jean Ryan Of Daymon On The Supply Chain and The Future Of Retail

An Interview With Martita Mestey

Martita Mestey
Authority Magazine
Published in
10 min readFeb 21, 2022


Innovation can also play a role in creating compelling in-and-out programs that encourage repeat visits. Retailers such as Trader Joe’s are some of the most obvious success stories in this space, with their constant rotation of fan favorites and limited time offerings, but many others are investing in their brands across tiers to provide new and exciting product lines, such as seasonal ice cream flavors or cross-category flavor programs.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jean Ryan.

Jean Ryan is the Senior Director of Strategic Advisory at Daymon. She has been at Daymon for more than eight years, where she started her career as a Global Markets and Strategy Intern. Jean earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics and business at Elmira College and her Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Rochester.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career path actually began as somewhat of a coincidence. My background was originally in mathematics, before shifting to focus more on marketing and strategy by getting my MBA. During my graduate studies, I interned with Daymon, which introduced me to the company and the Private Brand industry as a whole — and I’ve been with the company ever since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One of the most interesting things for me professionally was in 2019, when my role expanded to include leadership of Daymon’s design agency. Given I do not come from a creative background, this provided me a unique opportunity to bring an outside lens into this business while learning something new from this great team.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Some of the most exciting projects we are working on right now involve helping retailers define their strategy and approach for innovation, whether as part of developing a new brand strategy, creating new-to-market items, or innovating with their packaging. This is unique to every retailer, and even every Private brand, and really requires a deep understanding of the consumer and the challenges they’re facing to ensure you’re improving something about their lives, rather than just innovating to innovate. I think the famous quote by Henry Ford — “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” — sums up this mentality well: it’s the responsibility of the retailer and brand to anticipate the consumer needs and develop the innovative solutions in response.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’ve been very lucky to have amazing managers and leadership throughout my time at Daymon who have given me some incredible opportunities, helped develop my skills, and supported me along my career path. For example, when I first started at Daymon, I was able to work directly with our CMO for an entire year, which gave exposure and insight across areas of the business I would otherwise never have experienced. I was then able to work for some amazing women, including my current manager, who continued to help me learn and grow into my current role today.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Being part of sizeable team and company, I have enjoyed finding ways to activate my coworkers to participate in volunteer opportunities within our community that are important to me personally. I coordinate multiple initiatives throughout the year, including organizing teams for a virtual 5K race and managing our holiday gift drive to support local charities. I am always looking for new ways to use my voice and position to help others and am grateful to be a part of a team that is aligned with this vision.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

The pandemic has definitely forced traditional retailers to pivot their strategies to move beyond a focus on the four walls of their physical stores. The in-store environment is now only one part of what must be a seamless online and offline experience that works together across platforms. Making these appear consistent and complementary often requires breaking down internal company silos to connect these different parts of the business, such as ensuring simple things like coupons easily appear regardless of an e-commerce or in-store transaction.

We’re also seeing strategies shift to incorporate new channels and access points to meet consumers where they are shopping now, including via learnings from other industries. For some retailers, this has forced quicker timelines on technology rollouts and services such as curbside pickup, connected mobile apps, and in-store scan-and-go technology. Other retailers, like Wegmans, are going even further into the digital space and leveraging opportunities such as shoppable social media posts, connecting Instagram content directly to items for purchase — a trend more prevalent outside of Private Brand grocery but definitely in line with consumer shopping shifts.

The supply chain crisis is another outgrowth of the pandemic. Can you share a few examples of what retailers are doing to pivot because of the bottlenecks caused by the supply chain crisis?

The supply chain crisis has forced retailers to rethink their overall supply chain strategy while they deal with its immediate impact, as well as reimagine how they leverage their Private Brand programs. Out-of-stocks, especially early in the pandemic, drove increased trial of Private Brand items with over 70% of consumers purchasing a new or different brand. Many retailers seized on this positive momentum to reinforce Private Brands as quality options for their consumers, not just low-priced alternatives.

Behind the scenes, retailers are also pivoting in areas such as purchasing strategies to attempt to control some cost of goods inputs. Shifting to contract buying, as an example, can help smooth out expected costs by creating transparency around volume expectations and aligning incentives across the supply chain. Other retailers are evaluating the total cost equation differently and leveraging components such as container optimization and foreign currency conversions within their planning.

However, this does not mean that long-term solutions are off the table. Retailers are examining ways of creating more strategic partnerships with their suppliers in priority areas to drive symbiotic support, innovation, and crisis management beyond pure COGS. How these long-term supply strategies develop will determine who stays on top when future supply complications arise.

How do you think we should reimagine our supply chain to prevent this from happening again in the future?

Recent challenges have shown how interconnected the links in the supply chain are, with failure at any singular point cascading to impact others. One critical transition to strengthen these links for the future is a shift from cost-driven commoditization of supply to strategic partnerships between retailers and manufacturers. Aligning incentives between parties and considering the larger equation of value and efficiency, especially for critical parts of the business, will improve the collective ability to support Private Brand programs and weather future crises.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

The “death of physical retail’ implies that there is only one consumer group with a singular retail future. All channels are continuing to innovative to deliver against their varying consumer groups and their evolving needs. When physical retail was the only option, “access” was drive by geography and not differentiation. As consumers now have access to retailers, brands, and items through a variety of channels, physical retailers must reevaluate and center their strategy around why consumers should choose them over the myriad of other options.

In addition to forcing retailers to expand their availability and invest in similar delivery services, there are also many benefits to shopping in store that online options cannot replicate. If retailers understand what their consumers value, and for which purchase occasions, leaning into these differences can enforce the role of physical retail. For example, delivery is fast, but typically not immediate, which is critical for many purchase decisions. Similarly, virtual aisles can provide unlimited selection, but are not a substitute for in-person tactile experiences for many items and categories.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

The simplest lesson is to focus on the consumer. By focusing all business strategies on understanding and meeting their needs, retailers will differentiate themselves from their competition in ways that matter most to their consumers, and lead rather than follow what others are doing. Additionally, retailers that thoughtfully push the boundaries of what Private Brands can do, or the categories in which Private Brands are expected, are those that are winning. Private Brands are no longer only a price play and, in our industry, the retailers that are successful know this.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

While price is an important factor, it is not the only element driving purchase decisions. At a minimum, consumers no longer need to choose between low price and high quality, meaning brands must consider the total value equation — as well as the impact on consumer trust and loyalty if these expectations are not met.

Additionally, consumers are placing increased importance on ensuring brands align with their personal values, such as sourcing sustainable materials, positively impacting the local community, or empowering minority-owned businesses. All brands and e-commerce platforms, regardless of channel, have the opportunity to deliver on these decision factors in unique ways, with the reward of consumer stickiness and, optimally, brand loyalty.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Private Brands can play a strong role here in their overall support of a unique, consumer-centric retail experience. First, since up to 98% of a retailer’s assortment is the same as its competition, retailers need to leverage innovation within their Private Brands to differentiate from the competition and drive customer loyalty. Some of the top-selling Private Brands today, such as Kroger’s Simple Truth, are successful because of the rate of innovation and willingness to take risks as they expand into new places throughout the store.

Innovation can also play a role in creating compelling in-and-out programs that encourage repeat visits. Retailers such as Trader Joe’s are some of the most obvious success stories in this space, with their constant rotation of fan favorites and limited time offerings, but many others are investing in their brands across tiers to provide new and exciting product lines, such as seasonal ice cream flavors or cross-category flavor programs.

Third, having an authentic brand voice helps create a connection with consumers in and out of the store, such as Loblaws’ approach to No Name. While most retailers do not support their value brands in a significant way, Loblaws leans into the simplicity and straightforward value proposition of the brand across marketing platforms, from branded apparel to subway ads to its Twitter feed. It leverages a unique sense of humor and tone of voice that amplifies what consumers can expect from the brand — good, basic products — rather than hiding behind it.

Fourth, great associates are a critical component of a positive consumer experience. Retailers who invest in educating their associates on their company and Private Brand offerings can create in-store advocates, which in turn makes for a better shopping experience for consumers. Costco’s sampling program is one great example of this — the samples themselves are the draw, but the associates behind them share information, answer questions, and facilitate the purchase decision.

Finally, a thoughtful loyalty program helps make consumers feel special, important, and valued if it’s organized around incentives that matter to them. For example, Target’s updated Circle program offers personalized coupons from purchase data, is accessible across the Target universe via the website or mobile app, and leans into Target’s company values — such as supporting the community by voting on local charitable donations — in addition to offering savings on products throughout the store.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I believe Private Brands have a unique opportunity, not just as sales drivers for retailers but for the communities they serve. While Private Brands originated as price-focused, “generic” items, today’s Private Brands are truly consumer-oriented and eliminate the compromise between price and quality. Additionally, these brands are offering increasingly diverse solutions, from cleaner ingredient panels to sustainable materials to unique flavors. With the pandemic amplifying community needs such as food insecurity, job loss, and inflation, Private Brands have an opportunity to help people make ends meet in a tangible way. Since today’s retailers are such critical parts of their communities, my hope is they leverage these programs in unique ways to find ways to truly make a difference in people’s lives.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Thank you for providing me the opportunity to share my perspective within the retail industry. Readers can check out the exciting things happening within Private Brands on Daymon’s LinkedIn page.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.



Martita Mestey
Authority Magazine

Entrepreneur | Investor | Connector | Inventor