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Industry Viewpoint: The future is bright for independent retailers

The National Grocers Association has been the voice of the independent supermarket industry for nearly 40 years. Together, we have had the honor of working at NGA for over a decade. After an extensive national search, NGA’s board of directors announced that Greg Ferrara was selected as the new president and chief executive officer of NGA. On Sept. 1, I officially pass the baton to Greg and during this transition, we’d like to take the opportunity to talk about why we think the future is bright for the independent supermarket industry.larkPeter Larkin

The traditional supermarket is changing with new formats, new products, new competitors, all shifting customer preferences in-store and online. Grocers are undergoing change at a rapid pace. Product selection is becoming more diverse and exciting, while perimeter departments are capitalizing upon consumer demand for novel and fresh items.

According a Nielsen report, 75 percent of shoppers say produce is the most important product they shop for. So, there are plenty of opportunities for independents to stand out on the perimeter regarding product placement and a focus on providing locally grown produce. Further, research conducted on behalf of NGA by Nielsen and the Harris Poll, shows that loyal independent grocery shoppers spend approximately 40 percent more on groceries at independents than the average shopper; because of this, opportunities are ripe for independent produce departments looking to capitalize on a loyal customer base.ferGreg Ferrara

If there were one word to describe the independent grocers, it would be entrepreneurial. Nimble by nature, independents have a distinct advantage to operate their business with flexibility, which allows them to focus on key differentiators such as high-quality customer service, in-store experience, local and unique food items tailored to the communities they serve, and community support.

NGA members are an integral foundation in their communities through both the services they provide, as well as the jobs and local economic benefits they create. As NGA goes through this leadership transition, there is something that will remain constant — our privilege to be the voice of the independent supermarket industry. None of our success would have been possible without the strong support and commitment of our members.

NGA is proud to represent a growing list of more than 1,500 independent retail and wholesale supermarket companies that generate over 8,000 storefronts nationwide. As the old adage goes, there is strength in numbers, and our accomplishments as an association and as an industry are built on growth and engagement.

As we face changes and disruptions in the marketplace together, we look forward to being the place where independent grocers can find a community to share best practices and find solutions for a stronger future. We will also continue to stand up for Main Street local supermarkets and fight to achieve wins that allow them to grow their business, create jobs, and serve their communities.

Independent retail grocers and wholesalers have been the economic engines of their communities for decades, standing fast in good times and bad. With more than $131 billion in sales and nearly a million jobs, independents are the backbone of the national economy and local communities. Their history tells a great story of a vibrant industry.

(Peter Larkin is the president and chief executive officer of the National Grocers Association)