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For the past 15 years, independent grocery store owners, operations executives, and new and seasoned store and department managers from around the world have come together for the International Supermarket Management Class (ISMC), a multi-day small group learning experience held by the IGA Coca-Cola Institute.
In all, nearly one thousand students from 20 different countries and virtually every part of the United States have attended ISMC events, learning about food trends, discovering best practices, and sharing experiences with their peers in classes lead by IGA Coca-Cola Institute President Paulo Goelzer and other retail specialists.
IGA National Retailer Advisory Board Chairman Kevin Young, who owns three IGAs in California, understands the draw. He makes it a requirement for all new managers to attend, and credits much of his stores’ successes to the tactical ideas he and his team have learned over the years.
“You come back with all these how-tos and best practices that are real game changers,” Young says. “So many of the things we do that make our stores run more smoothly came directly from the ISMC classes.”
It also helps with what Young says is one of the biggest challenges for any independent retailer—retaining team members. “There’s no doubt that learning is the key to keeping team members engaged and motivated. The training they receive through the Institute is a huge help, but for us, there’s no replacement for this in-person experience. Everyone comes back re-energized and excited, so we decided the more people we can send, the better,” says Young, who now likes to send both his store and assistant managers at the same time so there’s no resistance among the people in charge to trying new ideas.
“If you get the whole management team onboard, pretty soon you see that enthusiasm trickle down to every level in the store. Once that happens, you have the kind of culture that people want to be involved in for the long haul.”
International Supermarket Management Class 2019
For fall 2019, there will be two sessions of the ISMC—one on the West Coast and one the East Coast—both lasting four days (with an optional fifth day excursion) and packed with insights from industry experts, networking activities, and learning experiences targeted to managers within the food retail industry.
According to Goelzer, smaller groups allow the class to remain intimate while giving more opportunity for participation. “A limited class size is important to give the close, personal learning experience we want,” he says. Both classes will have the same core agenda, but each will take advantage of the location as a backdrop for an optional day of immersive learning.
The West Coast class, sponsored by Red Oval Partner E&J Gallo, will be held Sept 15–20 at Louis M. Martini Winery in Napa, California. The optional fifth day will utilize the winery’s facilities and experts to take a deep dive into the wine category, with an emphasis on assortment, marketing, and merchandising.
The East Coast Class, sponsored by Bozzuto’s Inc., will be held October 6—11 at the Comfort Suites in Southington, Connecticut. The optional fifth day there will provide an opportunity for attendees to visit stores within Bozzuto’s stronghold of independent operators in the northeast.
What can participants expect to gain?
"When you attend the class or send your team, you're going to come back with ideas you can implement to develop your people and immediately improve results in your store," Goelzer says.
“There’s no question that the best associates in any store environment are made. They work at their leadership development and embrace new ideas and concepts that will advance not just their performance, but also the performance of the people they lead,” Goelzer says. “That’s the whole goal of the ISMC. It’s an intensive development experience that gives these managers and supervisors the tools they need to excel.”
The 22 sessions within the class are led by faculty including industry experts, IGA leaders (like Goelzer and IGA CEO John Ross), Red Oval Partners, and IGA retailers.
The topics cover key areas ranging from leadership, management, and retail strategy, to store operations, merchandising, category insights, finance, retail trends, and best practices.