RESTON, Va. -- According to the National Grocers Association here, the supermarket of the future will not just offer shoppers aisles of food and household goods.
Instead, it will be a "lifestyle destination center," in the words of Thomas K. Zaucha, NGA president and chief executive officer, a place that provides consumers with a wide range of solutions to their everyday questions -- from "What's for dinner?" to "Who's watching the kids?"
"The more we focus on our customers' lifestyle needs and interests, the more groceries we are going to sell," Zaucha told SN.
Marketing to consumers' lifestyles may sound like an esoteric way to sell breakfast cereal or canned tuna, but Zaucha said a major focus of the association is helping independent retailers and wholesalers "recapture the center store sales" they have been losing in recent years to general merchandisers and discount centers.
Providing information and insight about this new approach to marketing will shape the NGA's meetings over the next year, beginning with the association's annual convention, scheduled for Feb. 1 to 4 in Las Vegas.
"We want to provide a competitive tool chest to help our members compete against mass marketers and superstores," said Stuart Zlotnikoff, NGA senior vice president.
The NGA's first large-scale gathering of the new millennium will offer attendees a variety of new features:
The trade show has been re-engineered into what the convention brochure calls a "concept show." The trade show floor will feature "simulated supermarket departments of the future," complete with coolers and gondolas.
In the largest department, devoted to center store sales solutions, manufacturers will introduce new products and demonstrate category management programs.
In a departure for the NGA -- and the supermarket industry in general -- another department will focus on giving retailers ideas about "Re-inventing the Parking Lot for Special Events and Services." The centerpiece of this section will be the NGA gas station.
Another first will be the NGA kitchen, in the home-meals solutions section, with continuous product demonstrations by manufacturers' representatives preparing actual fresh- and frozen-food products for attendees to sample.
Just as store tours are perhaps the most effective way to orient employees to a workplace, the NGA will offer convention floor store tours to attendees.
For those unable to make it to Las Vegas, the concept show will be available through the Internet after the convention.
"We are prepared to act as an information conduit that creates a business message 12 months out of the year," Zaucha said.
The convention will also feature a full-range of workshops on technology, operations, store design and development, accounting and financial management, and food safety.
Looking beyond the industry (and toward next year's presidential election), the gathering will present a discussion between former Congressman Joseph Kennedy 2nd and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed.
Also, as in years past, the Las Vegas event will have two conferences within the convention. The joint marketing conference, presented in conjunction with Food Distributors International, Falls Church, Va., will address such topics are e-commerce, merchandising ethnic foods and generational marketing. The human-resources conference will focus on how to attract and retain good employees, comply with labor laws and government regulations, avoid discrimination litigation and use technology to solve HR challenges.
The NGA, along with the FDI and the Food Marketing Institute, will sponsor an industrywide Public Affairs Assembly in Washington June 19 and 20, at which retailers will have an opportunity to meet with members of Congress.