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Key Takeaways from the NGA Show

key takeaways NGA Show Day 1
Greg Ferrara opens his first NGA Show as president and CEO of the independent grocer trade group

Competition, employee retention and leveraging the power of influencers to boost independent grocery retailers were among the topics dominating discussions on the first day of the 2020 NGA Show, hosted by the National Grocers Association, Feb. 23-25 in San Diego.

This year’s show is the first under the leadership of Greg Ferrara, who took over as president and CEO of the trade organization last year upon the retirement of former president Peter Larkin.

With three days of education sessions in addition to a two-day show floor for exhibitors, the conference hit the ground running on Sunday afternoon. Day 1 discussions included the following: 

Nick Lenzi Buschs Market NGA Show
Nick Lenzi of Busch's Market advises retailers on how to lead with local

Competing With Dollar Stores: The dollar channel has been steadily increasing its grocery offerings, putting competitive pressure on independent operators and chains alike. Five consumer-driven strategies for grocers looking to compete with dollar stores, according to David Portalatin, VP and food industry advisor for The NPD Group, are to offer frictionless commerce, leverage the opportunity in fresh food, feature affordable family meals, focus on snacks and beverages, and don’t forget that price-sensitive dollar store shoppers are still looking to buy prepared foods.

Retention Strategies:  “The most powerful question you can ask employees is, ‘What is their story?’,” said Joe Kiedinger, principal/CEO of Prophit, offering a master class on how to retain employees by leveraging the qualities of vulnerability, dignity and respect. “People want to feel accepted, including your employees. People are starving for dignity and respect, including in grocery retail.”

Being Local is More Than Just Products: Local is a trend that’s not going away, according to Nick Lenzi, senior VP of buying and marketing for 16-store Michigan-based Busch’s Market, which carries no fewer than 5,000 products from the Great Lakes State across all store departments. But the logistics can be daunting, Lenzi warned. “Whatever you define as local, just be sure you adhere to it,” he said. And local is not only about what’s on your shelves: “It’s not just about product -- it’s about what you can do for the community.” Success in today’s market, Lenzi added, relies on deliberately being different than other operators out there.

Darlene Murphy Metcalfes Market NGA Show
Darlene Murphy of Metcalfe's Market explains how in-store events can drive traffic and sales

Influence With Authenticity: Influencers -- those with significant audiences of followers, typically on social media -- can be a boon if they like what you do as retailer. But bigger isn’t always better. Welcome to the era of the microinfluencer. “The smaller an influencer is, the more authentic they seem,” said Steve Lerch, president of Story Arc Consulting and formerly with Google. “Smaller influencers have voices that really resonate with their audiences. They make deep connections -- that’s trust.”

Exceeding the Expectations of a New Generation of Associates: Nathan Aldridge, education and team member enrichment manager for Gourmet Foods International, focused on the potential of Zoomer employees (members of Generation Z born from 1997 to 2010) for grocery retailers, how to train Zoomers and how to retain them. What is Gen Z looking for in a grocery retail employer? Diversity within the company, a company that manages its brand well and has good reviews online, job fluidity, strong values in green initiatives, giving back to local communities, and companies with overall great culture.

Events Deliver Excitement, Traffic and Loyalty: The number of consumers looking for a compelling in-store shopping experience has been rising steadily over the past decade. “They want it to be casual, exciting and a place they can relax,” said Darlene Murphy, marketing director for Wisconsin-based Metcalfe’s Market. What’s worked for Metcalfe’s? Tasting events, like “Battle of the Salsas,” timed during key snacking occasions like the Super Bowl; fundraising events for local organizations; and inviting video bloggers to cover store events.

NGA Show 2020 continues through Feb. 25.

For live show coverage, visit PG at and on Twitter at @pgrocer, @jimdudlicek and @acostag

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