What Five Star Status Means During A Pandemic

Mar 17, 2022

IGA Five Star is our annual store review program. IGA stores receive a ranking from one to five stars, scored by an independent third-party rater. These shoppers assess other retailers, like Walmart, Target, Office Depot, etc. and are paid to visit our stores too, filling in a customized IGA rating sheet. They visit at least twice, and report back with dozens of photographs based on what they see.

If you ever worked in a vertically integrated national chain, you know the rating periods are a nightmare. Store managers get promoted (or don’t) based on the scores they get. Sometimes the entire store loses a bonus based on just a single observation. Misery.

Because IGA is made of independent owners, the scoring system is done primarily for the owner’s benefit, not IGA Corporate. Sure, we do pay attention to low scoring stores and the ratings help us identify retailers who might need help, but no one gets fired because of the ratings we do. 

This idea is simple: we are never as good as we think we are, and there are always areas for improvement. Used this way, the rating process can be constructive for stores looking to improve their game. And they allow me to reach out to owners whose stores scored the highest to thank them for leading the brand!

Last year we considered not doing the survey while COVID was still in play. After all, our stores are stressed, out of stocks are rampant, and hiring is getting harder than ever. And our managers are exhausted after two plus years of COVID distractions.

In the end, we decided to go ahead. The ratings cover such topics as store cleanliness, organization, customer service, friendliness.  Pandemic or not, these are areas we can’t ignore. (In the past, we scored out-of-stocks too, but during a COVID year, we have continued to remove that ranking.)

And since every score comes with a photograph, the rankings make it much easier to see your store through your shoppers' eyes. That’s valuable when sales are up, just as when sales are tougher to come by.

Now you would think that with all the disruption it would be harder to earn a Five Star ranking. I am proud to say we had more stores earn four and five stars than ever before. It goes to show how the best independents, even when stressed, lead the industry in store appearance and customer service. And the data proves it— international and in the U.S., IGA grew share relative to our competitors. That’s something to be proud of!

I encourage you to spend time with the survey results (the photographs alone are invaluable). We can always be better, and as this crazy year unfolds—with inflation, continued supply chain disruption—we need to make sure the gains we made in the last two years don’t get lost to the competition.

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