It seems as though industry events tend to be defined by big happenings at big chains. Of course, the ground continues to be covered by smaller operators that proceed on a daily basis to not just do a good job, but help define industry direction, too.
That's true of independents operating under any number of banners, but in this week's SN, a spotlight is shining on five IGA operators, each of whom were awarded International Retailer of the Year status at an IGA meeting last week. In each instance, winners were credited with having various of the ingredients that independent supermarkets need in order to succeed.
In the news feature that starts on Page 12, you'll see in great detail what each of the IGA supermarkets has done to be good community members and in taking action to fend off competitive threats. For our purposes here, let's take a brief look at what each of the operators has accomplished:
VALLEY IGA PLUS: The owner of this store has long been close to independents. He once was responsible for overseeing IGA stores in Northern California as operations manager for Fleming's Fresno division. When the wholesaler went bankrupt, he leveraged that experience into co-ownership of his own store in Waterford, Calif. Now, Valley IGA has become something of a community meeting point, largely because of its service counter and food court. (For more, see Page 12.)
BRENTWOOD IGA: Sometimes it's necessary to spin straw into gold. That's what happened when this owner acquired a failing supermarket and did what was necessary to upgrade systems. The owner now has a store with modern scanning, electronic funds transfer capacity, new refrigeration, lighting, security systems and more. This didn't come cheaply. It may take the owner six years to pay down debt, but to the good side, the store's sales volume has jumped to double what it was under previous ownership. (Page 14.)
KEIL'S IGA: Independents aren't called independent for nothing. This owner at one time sourced product from Fleming, but retained his own control over other aspects of the business, such as accounting, merchandising, advertising and so on. So when Fleming stumbled, it wasn't too great a stretch to shift to Unified Western Grocers. Location helps this operator, too. The San Diego store got quite a sales boost during the labor strife there. (Page 16.)
COVINGTON FOODS: The owner of this store learned the food-retailing business the direct way: by all but growing up in the stores founded by his parents. As this owner remarks, the business was once centered on selling meal ingredients. Now, it's all about meal solutions. As he points out, it's also about the basics of retailing, such as running clean stores staffed by friendly workers. The basics are right for this operator to thrive against growing competition. (Page 16.)
MOSS VALE IGA TUCKERBAG: Finally, what about the host of stores under the IGA banner in other parts of the world? Here's one in Australia. This operator has kept ahead of competition by upgrading the shopping space and in several ways. (Page 17.)