While the winter storm prevented some attendance from suppliers and retailers in the Northeastern United States, this year's annual four-day National Grocers Association show was one of the largest in NGA history, according to the association, with over 2700 in attendance including retailers, wholesalers, and industry partners.
The NGA Expo floor sold out early, as was evidenced by many suppliers handing out cards to retailers in between educational sessions or else teaming up with an industry partner and using their existing booth space. (We were actually very happy with our booth space along the wall next to the entrace -- there was no one to the left of our booth, we were able to display posters of Progressive Grocer Independent covers outside of our booth).
Other highlights of the show included the announcement of NGA's expanded technology offerings through a partnership with the Center for Advancing Retail & Technology (CART) to create the NGA SolutionCenter and NGA InnovationCenter. A partnership with Personiphi will also allow independent grocers to utilize advanced personalized marketing and showcase new products from manufacturers. For more information on these initiatives, visit www.nationalgrocers.org/tech.
I spoke with CART and Personiphi founder -- and long-time industry friend -- Gary Hawkins during the event and he said they already have a unique network of stores in place set up to test either new technologies entering the retail space, or else test the strategies of CPG companies that make use of some of the existing technologies at CART. You'll be seeing more on this in the pages of PGI over the next several months.
PGI even tested out some new technology during the show. In addition to our Tweeting and our online coverage, we used a new platform called Tout -- which is kind of a video-based service similar to Twitter. It provides an iPhone app that enables you to shoot a 15-second video, which it then uploads to your profile page on the Tout website. The platform also allows you to create widgets that post to your own website, so we added one to a module of the Indepdnent Grocer Network, so then every time we took a Tout video -- either of someone speaking during a session, or of a supplier demonstrating its product at the show -- it was automatically uploaded to IGN within about one minute.
Let us know is you would like your touts to be displayed in our Touts box, let us know -- We'd love to showcase them!
PGI also had a wonderful turnout at it's Outstanding Independent Awards Reception, our first standalone awards event at the NGA show. Representatives from just aboutr all 13 winning companies were on hand to accept the awards, and dozens more retailers were in attendance. Traditionally we would hold our awards presentations during the initial ten minutes of the NGA's Grocers Awards. But since PGI went standalone last year, we wanted to expand our awards into several more categories, and this year had 13 total winners, including our wholesaletr of the year -- far to much to squeeze into NGA's event.
Many thanks to NGA for finding us a home for our awards event, and even plugging it during their own awards presentation!
Also thanks to NGA for letting me use it's Online Learning Center to prepare for PGI's roundtable on Food Safety in the Store.
The NGA Online Training & Education Center, with support from The IGA Coca-Cola Institute, offers a continually updated selection of online training courses developed to meet the specific needs of food retailers. Over 90 courses are available in seven languages on topics such as general retail knowledge, supermarket department procedures, food safety, customer service, logistics, management, and more - all available online for access anytime, anywhere. Stores can enroll unlimited employees in unlimited courses, and can track the progress of their students in real-time to ensure employee success.
NGA let me use the system to prepare for my food safety rouondtable, and as it turned our, many of the roundtable participants had their associates use the system as well. It's a great tool for bringing new associates up to speed on all sorts of issues important to independent grocers, and I'd imagine its a great refresher course for senior staff, as well.
And now with the support of First Data, NGA members are now able to receive access to the NGA Online Training & Education Center at a new rate of $500 per-year, per-store.
Keep an eye out for our extended show coverage -- including a detailed feature on our roundtable, and a photo gallery on our awards reception -- in the pages of PGI and on the Independent Grocer Network.