Independent’s Day Out

Feb 07, 2003

By Ronald Margulis

Having just returned from the National Grocers Association’s annual convention
in Las Vegas this week, I am brimming with optimism over the future of the community-based
supermarket retailer. The general sessions (one featuring RetailWire BrainTrust
member Ryan Mathews) were insightful and well attended, the workshops were informative
and well attended and even the trade show floor was, well, well attended.

The unifying message of the convention was creating differentiation. From the
opening State of the Industry report from N.G.A. Chairman Mike Needler of Fresh
Encounters, through Ryan’s session featuring three great retailers (Ukrop’s,
Niemann’s and Pro & Sons), to the presentation by David Mackay, president
of Kellogg’s USA, and his panelists (including Jeff Noddle of SUPERVALU,
Carol Bitter of Friedman’s Supermarkets, AWG’s Gary Phillips and Chris
Coburn), everyone talked about differentiation. And, not just for differentiation
sake either. The goal is to make your store a more attractive and engaging place
to help make it easier for existing and potential customers to shop there.

The convention was not a rally against Wal-Mart, as some have characterized
N.G.A. meetings recently. I talked with several retailers who are threatened
by Wal-Mart and are using this situation to reinvent themselves as a destination
store, a convenience-oriented store or even a catering center. These executives
admit they should have been examining the marketplace all along to make adjustments
to their go-to-market strategies, but insist they don’t blame Wal-Mart
and say they are developing programs that will keep the shoppers happy and returning
for more. One retailer I talked with exuded such excitement at the prospect
of returning to his stores with all the information he had gathered at the convention
he could hardly wait to leave Las Vegas (although he may have been contributing
a little too much to the casino’s bottom line as well).

All in all, the convention was a constructive session for community-based supermarket
retailers, and provided a year’s worth of ideas for attendees to deploy
in their effort to maintain and even grow their businesses.

Open Disclosure:
The National Grocers Association is a sponsor of RetailWire. Ronald Margulis
is editorial director of National Grocer magazine, which is published by N.G.A.

Moderator’s Comment: Can community-based supermarket
retailers still make an impact on the industry as a whole?
Anderson – Moderator

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