CHICAGO -- IGA's member retailers are adjusting to, and profiting from, the new world of sharing information with their Center Store trading partners, said Duane Martin, president, IGA North America, here, speaking at the Forrester Consumer Packaged Goods Summit, "New Technologies for Old Brands" this month, also here.
Exchanging data among retailers, manufacturers, distribution centers and the IGA support team is the key to growth for IGA, Martin said.
"We have to be sharing information throughout the entire supply chain," he said. "From what the consumers' needs are, to what the retailers are doing, to how the distribution centers are supplying the stores, to how many manufacturers are making the product, or how many growers are growing it."
IGA members are accepting the idea, he told SN after his presentation. "They are coming around very quickly," he said.
While independent retailers are historically reluctant to share their data, once they see the benefits from tests, they readily accept the idea. He estimated that IGA is about 40% to 45% along in getting its member retailers to cooperate.
"They are pretty much embracing it with open arms, but you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run. We're at that walking stage right now," he said.
IGA is putting an emphasis on developing an Internet "portal" technology, much like an intranet, to facilitate the exchange of the necessary information.
A major benefit for Center Store aisles will be speed-to-shelf for new item introductions, Martin said. Product placement based on category management and demographics can also be communicated through the portal, he said.
This sharing of information is consistent with IGA's foundation as an alliance -- IGA stands for Independent Grocers Alliance. "We look at our alliance as the consumer, the retailer, the distribution center and our manufacturing partners. Once that alliance is in place, they can build winning strategies to support the IGA brand," Martin said.
Among the ways IGA is working to facilitate the sharing of information is by establishing various advisory boards, such as one for manufacturers and one for category management, and this month signing up for the Category Business Planner program of ACNielsen Corp., Stamford, Conn.
Meanwhile the company has been drastically reducing the number of stores under the IGA banner, while emphasizing its high standards. The store count has been reduced from 2,200 in 1997 to 1,680 today.
"We had a lot of stores that were pulling the brand down," he said. Some still had the IGA sign up, even though they had left the system years ago, Martin added.
All this is starting to pay dividends. "Last year we had a 6% decrease in store count, but a 9% increase in sales volume," Martin said.