LIVE FROM NGA: NGA Bows Tech Resources for Independent Grocers

Underscoring its reinvigorated relevance to the industry, the National Grocers Association (NGA) officially kicked off its 2013 show on Sunday, Feb. 10, with an opening general session that highlighted the organization's achievements, as well as the successes and challenges facing the independent grocery industry.

The national trade association also revealed important new initiatives designed to increase value for its membership and ultimately, to U.S. food shoppers.

Through work with economic research firm John Dunham & Associates, NGA will create an interactive website that will allow the industry, public officials, the media and others to see the impact of independent grocers on the nation's economy. The full report will include the industry's overall economic impact including sales, jobs, wages, and taxes paid, with ability to drill down by state and congressional district.

"Independent grocers play an enormous role in the American economy," said NGA president/CEO Peter Larkin. "With this data, our industry will finally be able to quantify its relevance at a district, state, and national level."

Larkin identified technology as another focus area for the association. Through feedback from the MVP project and the Technology Advisory Committee, and in partnership with Gary Hawkins of Hawkins Strategic, two key initiatives are coming down the pipeline.

First, NGA is working with the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART) to bring two new services to NGA members. The NGA InnovationCenter creates a unique environment for retail stores to serve as live learning labs to pilot new solutions, conduct research in partnership with trading partners, and discover in-store marketing and operations best practices.

The InnovationCenter has begun piloting its exciting program to bring creative and effective solutions to the independent sector. The NGA SolutionCenter provides an arena for NGA members to assess their current technology position, create a roadmap of technology focus and investments, and guide discovery, evaluation, and procurement of solutions.

Additionally, NGA announced a potential game-changer for the independent sector: Personiphi. Unlike large retailers who are able to leverage sophisticated personalized marketing and relationships with CPG manufacturers, independent and mid-market retailers are often at a disadvantage due to the complexity and expense of such technology.

Personiphi brings shopper intelligence and personalized marketing capability to NGA members, delivering highly relevant offers to each shopper under the retailer's brand. Personalized marketing drives basket size, increased shopping trips, and improved retention. Currently in the proof-of-concept stage, NGA is excited about Personiphi's ability to help level the playing field for independent retailers given its leadership of experienced industry executives and the technological prowess of Symphony EYC which is helping power up the Personiphi program.

Meanwhile, NGA chairman Joe Sheridan, president/COO of Wakefern Food Corp., took the stage to address industry trends. Highlighting issues such as competition brick and mortar faces with the evolution of online retail, mobile payments, health and wellness and the importance of the customer experience, Sheridan issued two challenges to the NGA Show attendees, foremost to which is elevated member engagement to the next level by sharing ideas and best practices; and second, to get more involved in NGA through participation in share groups, Action Alerts, technology initiatives, and educational opportunities.

Sheridan and Larkin also welcomed to the stage Lisa Walsh, VP, customer management, PepsiCo, Inc. For ten years, PepsiCo has fervently supported NGA's Executive Leadership Development Program (ELDP) at Cornell University. Sheridan presented Walsh with a plaque in recognition of PepsiCo's generous and steadfast support, which has allowed ELDP to become one of NGA's most respected programs.

Headlining the evening's event was a keynote presentation by Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson and Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, who were appointed in 2010 by President Barack Obama as co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. This bipartisan commission produced a plan to reduce the Nation's deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade. The plan was supported by a supermajority of the commission with
equal support from both Republican and Democrat members.

The Opening Keynote, sponsored by Kraft Foods Group, addressed the national debt crisis, the narrowly-averted fiscal cliff, and the financial challenges facing the country. They also discussed the financial impact of current legislation on independent grocers as business owners.

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