Coral BeachNational Grocers Association President Peter Larkin says independent retailers are a "vital force" during his opening speech at the association's annual show in Las Vegas Feb. 9.LAS VEGAS — More than 3,000 registered to attend the National Grocers Association 2014 show this week where the expo floor is 44% larger than last year’s show.
At the Feb. 9 opening session, NGA President Peter Larkin said the record attendance and expo booths is a sign that independent grocers are not a dying breed, withering in the shadow of giant chains.
“The independent grocery channel is a vital force, accounting for nearly one percent of the nation’s gross domestic product,” Larkin told the crowd.
In his remarks as out-going chairman of the NGA board, Joe Sheridan, president of Wakefern Food Corp., reminded independent retailers that they collectively have more than 20,000 stores in the U.S. with more than $131 billion in annual sales.
Sheridan said e-commerce is definitely a factor that cannot be ignored, and independents need to use it to keep stores open.
“There’s some talk that brick and mortar isn’t going to survive,” Sheridan said. “That’s just not true. However, e-commerce will change how brick and mortar works. Some items in certain categories are going to migrate and we need to be discussing that with suppliers to see how we can make that work for us.”
Incoming board chairman Rich Niemann Jr., president of Niemann Food Inc., had similar thoughts.
“There’s always going to be a boogeyman out there,” Niemann said. “But there are two key things to keep him at bay. Use your brand. Make sure you know what it stands for and where it’s going.
“Then get that word out. The rules of 30 years ago don’t apply,” he said. “Today your whole store must be a sales organization. Every employee must know what your brand is and know how to talk to your customers about it.”
Freaky about fresh
Carrying that message over to the Feb. 10 breakfast session, motivational speaker Harold Lloyd and a panel of retailers shared ideas about how independent grocery stores can get “freaky about fresh.”
Lloyd said keeping it fresh doesn’t require hiring an expensive consultant or marketing firm. For example, hand-painted and hand-written signs have been shown by numerous focus groups to equate with freshness in the minds of consumers.
“You’ve all got a frustrated artist some place in your staff. Get them some markers and chalk and examples to emulate and you will have fresh signs that shoppers will respond to,” Lloyd said.