NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Alliance Retail Group here, a self-negotiating cooperative for members of Kansas City, Kan.-based Associated Wholesale Grocers, said Monday it has passed the 500-member mark, representing independent retailers who account collectively for volume of $2.78 billion.

ARG negotiates with vendors on behalf of its members to secure and guarantee price and performance terms on promotional products.


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"We are kind of a co-op within a co-op," Joe Wolf, ARG president, told SN. "A wholesaler can provide products to its customers, but it can't guarantee performance, which is what manufacturers are looking for. We can guarantee performance as part of the deals we make."

With the addition by AWG of several former Belle Foods stores in the Southeast, ARG represents 510 AWG customers in 16 states, Wolf said. ARG started 10 years ago with 56 members — most of whom were customers at the time of Fleming Cos. — "who wanted to manage their own promotional funds," Wolf explained.

"We are able to aggregate as much volume as possible in purchasing from vendors so independents can compete with the chains," Wolf said.

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ARG has established relationships with Nielsen and IRI, Wolf noted, and it will soon be recognized as a collective group, qualifying it as a "census read," he noted. Most major wholesalers work with similar groups, Wolf said, "though those groups generally fly under the radar."

Alliance Harsha Advertising, ARG's wholly owned subsidiary based in Oklahoma City, provides printing and publishing services to 650 retailers supplied by eight different wholesalers in 35 states, he added.

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