McGregor spends his time working on special projects for the business, he said. Right now he’s reviewing all vendor programs, including pricing, new item distribution and markdowns, “to make sure we are maximizing our opportunities,” he explained.
The project started in December with meetings with Supervalu personnel, “and now that we’ve identified which programs are most beneficial to us, we’re in Phase 2, in which we’re trying to prioritize programs, looking for the best opportunities to maximize our customer counts, sales, bottom line or, hopefully, all three.
“Once we’ve made those determinations, Phase 3 will involve meeting with our department people to let them know how we want to move forward.”
McGregor said he’s also involved with IGA — serving as a director of IGA USA and as chairman of the National Retail Advisory Board, which provides the U.S. arm of IGA with suggestions on how to improve the value of the alliance to its retailers.
In addition, McGregor is active on the Northwest IGA board, which oversees activities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Alaska.
IGA is a big help to independents, he pointed out. “An independent usually can’t provide enough of what his customers want on his own, so he has to partner with other independents to exchange ideas, and that’s what IGA does for us.
“As an IGA associate, I can share ideas with IGA stores in other areas and see what they’re doing and learn from them, although each of our stores remains unique.
“We believe strongly in IGA’s slogan, ‘Hometown Proud’ — that’s what the independent is all about in the local community. A chain can serve a wider area, but an independent generally must rely on the neighborhood around his store to support his business.”
McGregor has been a member of NGA for more than a decade, he said, though he’s been coming to NGA conventions since 1986 as a Supervalu customer and IGA retailer, “and I’ve always been interested in the issues the association deals with, such as credit card fees and helping to keep the playing field level for independents — the kinds of issues that are very important to our business.
“I also admire the educational programs NGA offers at its shows, and I always take away an idea or two.”
Ideas he’s taken home from past conventions, he said, include the importance of transition planning, “along with some operational ideas for the stores that I’ve learned at the Harold Lloyd seminars — for example, being aware of how your store entry appears to customers, making sure shopping carts are easily available and making sure you maximize your end displays with tie-in items for extra sales.
“And when I was remodeling one of my stores several years ago, I looked at some of the equipment on display at the show and got some questions answered, which enabled me to select what I wanted.”
Asked how independents have changed since he started in the business 55 years ago, McGregor said, “We no longer have salesmen knocking on our doors. And there’s a lot more reliance on computers and high-tech, and if you don’t keep up with technology, you will be out of business.
“Marketing dollars come to us in different ways now, and manufacturers are more interested in what’s going out the front than what’s coming in the back door.”
Wal-Mart has also changed the way independents operate, McGregor pointed out. “You have to recognize who they are in the marketplace and realize you shouldn’t try to put them out of business. Instead, what they do is force you to look at your own business to see if you’re providing all that your customers want in terms of fresh, selection and service.
“As a result Wal-Mart had made all retailers better operators through greater efficiencies. It has also made all distribution centers more effective, and manufacturers as well.”