As an independent retailer, it can often seem that we fight against everything, every day. From local taxes and regulations, to rising energy costs, to increased national competition, it is a relentless tide of extra costs and incremental challenges.
And all the while, the shopper gets more demanding. They want better service, delivery, ecommerce, more selection, more organics, and more locally grown options—and of course they always want it for less.
This is why it is so important to gather together as independent retailers and act like a national chain. As 1,100+ stores domestically, and over 6,000 internationally, we have power in scale.
But that power only comes if we leverage our scale. And frankly, that is hard to do. Independent retailers are independent for a reason! We run unique assortments, have unique ads, do unique marketing and promotional programs. All that uniqueness is a strength, of course—where other chains talk about being hyperlocal, IGA defines it! And you all know I believe in the power of the word local, as evidence by our new tagline, “Local Equals Fresh.”
But our uniqueness is also our weakness. Independents tend to pay the most for services over any other channel. I see our contracts, and know the margins by channel of our big brands. And I know how service providers price.
Frankly, I don’t blame them. Our channel is costly to serve, impossible to scale. Our very independent nature makes us a tricky channel for any national or global supplier—many don’t have the first idea how to access our stores.
Our IGA-licensed distributors help with this in cost of goods sold for the products we sell, and often for many services, too. But even they miss out on programs designed only for national retailers.
Winning with IGA’s Red Oval Partners
We just completed our meeting of North American suppliers. (For new IGA retailers, we call brands that form a strategic relationship with IGA “Red Oval Partners.” Because our logo is red. And an oval.)
At this meeting we covered the strategic plan, including why we are doing the big initiatives that are underway. Our new visual merchandising system, our new branding, our new digital offering and digital communications strategy, our media plan, etc.
Here is What They Learned:
IGA now has tools that allow them to access our stores as a single, national chain
It is very low cost to promote through the IGA national program to all of the U.S.
Every national dollar they spend is performance linked, with real data to back up results
With over 11 million impressions on our IGA digital ad, we are getting close to the kind of national reach that any other big retailer offers
IGA store count is growing both inside and outside the U.S.
Nothing we are doing will undermine trade funds for the retailer or the LDC
I think our brands were impressed by the progress. I know they are on board based on the offers they are working on for the digital ad, and the strategic plans we are doing in key categories (like pet, baby, beer).
Leveraging our scale to make sure IGA stores get access to the same offers, deals, and promotions as any national chain is working. And it is the path to win. Those stores already leveraging the national offers are reporting comp increases (compared to last year and the previous two weeks). And we really have just begun.
The brands need us to scale—they don’t have the resources to serve our channel. Our service providers need us to scale too, because they don’t have any efficient way to create a partnership if they act store by store.
We are growing. Our new programs are building—and working. Behaving like the multi-billion-dollar national chain we are is the way we win!