Viewpoints

Independents’ Future: A Tale of Two Strategies

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It was a tale of two retail worlds at last week’s NGA Show in Las Vegas.

On the one hand, independents were in fine and familiar form, discussing how they differentiate from chains through personal, local touches. They touted superior associate training programs and exceptional ties to communities. This all plays to their strengths.

But there was also something different. Independents were waking up to a new kind of competition that was strange and unfamiliar.

“The independent sector is under siege,” said Gary Hawkins, CEO of Hawkins Strategic, during a riveting NGA Show presentation.

He outlined the new reality in stark language. Big retailers have “weaponized shopper data.” They are fighting a “stealth battle” because precision targeted, personal promotions resulting from this data can’t be seen by independent retail competitors.

Help is on the way for independents. NGA Show attendees were told about a new platform being made available in a partnership between Hawkins and NGA. Called Personiphi, it aims to bring new capabilities in the forms of data aggregation and sophisticated personalized offers based on shopper segmentation.

NGA and independents are increasingly open to exploring advanced tools such as this. On the NGA show floor, a number of exhibitors said independents were asking about technologies that have until now been the province of chains.

Read more: NGA Study Quantifies Importance of Independents

Related to this, independents are getting less reticent about leveraging their combined clout. NGA will be unveiling a new study that quantifies the economic impact of the independent grocery sector on the food distribution system and the U.S. economy. This research piece will help raise the profile of this segment with lawmakers, CPG suppliers and others. NGA is also tapping into the combined power of independents by setting up live learning labs at participating retail stores to pilot new solutions for technology and other areas in collaboration with suppliers.

NGA managed to communicate all this change even as it celebrated its 30th anniversary. The upshot is the independent community is becoming savvier about the nature of competition and the importance of pooling its clout. Not that the old competitive stance is going away. Independents haven’t lost any enthusiasm for pursuing local marketing and connections to communities, as well they shouldn’t. They just realize it’s going to take even more to win on an increasingly complex battlefield.

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David Orgel

David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

Jon Springer

Jon Springer has been writing about food, food retailers and food retailing for more than 10 years, and is in his second tour of duty with Supermarket News. His prior experience includes covering the...
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