RETAIL TRADE: Customer's Man

In Safeway stores, clerks often see a slight, spectacled shopper who isn't a regular customer but looks vaguely familiar. The shopper is Lingan Alan Warren, 60, the $386,000-a-year president of Safeway who spends much of his time checking up on his stores by shopping like any housewife. Says he: "I'm just a customer like anyone else. If I ever forget that, I'm through."

By putting himself in the customer's shoes—and giving the customer what he wants—Ling Warren has helped expand Safeway Stores Inc. into a grocery chain second only in dollar volume to...

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