An Independent Voice: Learning and networking in Vegas

The upcoming NGA Show will offer expanded educational opportunities and partnerships.

By Jane Olszeski Tortola

For independent grocers small and large, the must-attend event of the coming year will be the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show held at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.

Building on a successful track record established over several years, the show will take place Feb. 12-15. Association officials say the 2012 edition of the show has been developed with more member input than ever before.

“For the first time, we convened a convention committee and studied every aspect of the show, from top to bottom,” says Peter Larkin, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based NGA. “The NGA Show continues to grow and serves as the most valuable event available to independents for education, exhibiting of new products and services and networking with other family-owned stores.”

Several collaborations are sure to enhance the 2012 NGA Show, including a partnership with the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), which will bring its enthusiastic PMA members to the convention and will exhibit perishable products and services on the already expansive show floor. In addition, IGA will co-locate its Global Rally with the event.

Lauded for providing exceptional educational opportunities during its annual event, NGA is offering workshop tracks in the areas of promotions and marketing, associate development, store operations, technology, growth strategies and digital marketing.

“Each day, attendees may participate in the morning workshops featuring many of our country’s most successful supermarket retailers and they’ll be given the opportunity to further discuss the topics at open forums taking place in specified areas of the show floor during the afternoons,” explains Larkin.  “It’s critical to connect the workshops to the exhibit floor through these idea exchanges and to provide much valuable ‘take home’ for participants.”

There are countless reasons for independents to attend the NGA Show in February, not the least of which is to participate in a spirited Opening General Session, featuring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has served presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“We’re thrilled to have someone of Robert Gates’ caliber help us launch our show,” says Larkin. “Very few people have garnered his kind of experience in having once led the CIA and working in various capacities with several U.S. presidents.”

Additionally, daily Super Breakfast Sessions will be spearheaded by popular retailing, merchandising and consumer experts such as Harold Lloyd and award-winning supermarket retailers. These sessions will feature presentations and audience discussions on hot topics such as merchandising, surviving the social media revolution, competing with non-traditional formats and more.

According to Larkin, a unique attribute to this year’s NGA convention is a new show specific website, which was architected by longtime staff member Christine Cunnick.  All of the most up-to-date show details, along with convention registration information, featured gala entertainment, the 2012 Exhibitor Prospectus and more can be found at

Larkin and his team say they are grateful for the generous convention sponsorships secured from organizations such as Kraft, NCB, Unilever, First Data, IGA, Kellogg Co., FMS, McCormick and others for their tireless support of independently owned supermarkets.

Concluded Larkin, “Granted, support from our vendors and exhibitors, especially, is key.  This event is where independents ranging from single store owners to multi-store operators will gather.  And whether a company has committed to sponsoring our keynote speaker, a super breakfast session or a retailer workshop, or simply attending our convention, the NGA Show truly serves as one of the most cost efficient ways of communicating with successful independent grocers during a specific period of time.”

The NGA is to be commended for its commitment to bringing together outstanding retailers, suppliers and manufacturers in Las Vegas to network, learn and enhance already-strong business partnerships. And, once again, the convention will serve as a launch pad for business opportunities far beyond the show floor, resulting in a big win for all who participate.

Jane Olszeski Tortola, a regular columnist for Grocery Headquarters, devoted more than three decades of her career to working at a family-owned supermarket company founded by her late father. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University and is active in a number of food industry organizations. She can be reached at

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