Association Perspective: Addressing the independents

National Grocers Association’s 2013 NGA Show introduced several innovations developed to help small- to mid-sized grocers.

By Peter J. Larkin, president & CEO, National Grocers Association

More than 2,700 attendees joined the National Grocers Association for our 2013 NGA Show last month in Las Vegas. With one of the highest attendances in show history, NGA set a goal to bring new and innovative resources and opportunities to retailNga_Larkin_Peterers, wholesalers and trading partners. On the first night of the show, I took the stage with Joe Sheridan, president and COO of Wakefern Food Corp. and NGA’s Chairman. We announced some new and exciting programs that would serve as the backbone for many education sessions and events at the show—which I would like to share with all independents.

Over the past few years NGA has focused our efforts on assessing the needs of the independent grocer by surveying our membership and identifying ways to have a tangible impact on their bottom lines. One comment that we kept hearing was that independent grocers felt that they had unique challenges in the area of technology, and that they did not see an existing arena for addressing those challenges. Unlike large retailers, who are able to leverage manpower and financial resources to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to pricy state-of-the-art technologies, small and mid-sized retailers are at a disadvantage. In addition, while major chains are taking advantage of opportunities for personalized marketing initiatives, shopper loyalty programs and customized messaging, independents struggle to be able to keep up.

In seeking to address these concerns, NGA created a Technology Advisory Committee to gain more specific feedback on how NGA could bridge the gap between large and small retailers. Through the responses we received, we worked to create a few new initiatives that we are very excited about.

First, we have partnered with Gary Hawkins of Hawkins Strategic, a long-time industry veteran who is at the forefront of retail technology. Through the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART), we will bring two new services to NGA members. The first is what we are calling the NGA InnovationCenter. This program creates a new and unique opportunity for retailers to serve as “live learning labs” for trading partners and CPG companies. Through the InnovationCenter, companies will be able to test new products and solutions in independent stores, as well as explore best practices for marketing and operations. The second component of CART is the NGA SolutionCenter, which allows retailers to assess where they stand technologically to determine areas of need and opportunities for growth. Using that information, they will be able to create a roadmap for how to improve their technology position, as well as discover, evaluate and procure new solutions to reach those goals.

We are also incredibly excited about what we think will be a game changer for the independent grocery channel. It is called Personiphi, and it is a way for small and mid-market retailers to leverage sophisticated personalized marketing programs and shopper intelligence. Each shopper will be able to get relevant and individualized offers, which can increase basket size, frequency of trips to the store and improved loyalty.
Additionally, it will allow small retailers to strengthen relationships with CPG companies through power in numbers. Personiphi, which is currently in the proof-of-concept stage, will change how small and mid-sized grocers operate. It combines the technological prowess of Symphony EYC and the independent sector’s abundance of experience to help level the playing field.

Another game changer coming down the pipeline is the NGA Economic Impact Study. For years, I have been asked, “Just how big is the independent grocery channel?” The results of this study will answer that question, and will include information such as combined sales in dollars, taxes paid, wages, jobs created and even the impact on sub-economies such as agriculture and mining. Once released, the data will be stored on an open website for access by retailers, suppliers, government officials and the public. This will help show just how large of an impact we have on the nation’s economy and underscore our relevance as an industry. We expect that the data will be finalized in the coming weeks, and we are excited to share the results.


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