ASSOCIATIONS EXPLORE JOINT CONVENTION

DALLAS -- The National Grocers Association and the National-American Wholesale Grocers' Association will actively explore holding a joint annual convention instead of their separate events beginning in 1997.This development, revealed at the NAWGA convention here last week, is part of the growing efforts by supermarket industry associations to eliminate duplications and strive for more cooperation,

DALLAS -- The National Grocers Association and the National-American Wholesale Grocers' Association will actively explore holding a joint annual convention instead of their separate events beginning in 1997.

This development, revealed at the NAWGA convention here last week, is part of the growing efforts by supermarket industry associations to eliminate duplications and strive for more cooperation, according to leaders of both groups. In another development last week, NGA said it has been working with the Food Marketing Institute to arrange for that group's MarkeTechnics Conference and Exposition to be held back-to-back with the NGA annual convention beginning in 1997. A joint NAWGA-NGA convention would probably not be feasible before 1997 because plans for next year have already been finalized for both groups and would be very difficult to change, the associations said. Next year both organizations are holding their conventions in Orlando, Fla. -- NGA's in late February and NAWGA's in early March. "As we consider ways to reduce the duplication of association services offered to wholesalers and retailers, we think it's logical to find out whether a joint NAWGA-NGA convention would be a feasible proposition," said John Block, president of NAWGA. "We already have a long-standing model for cooperation between associations in the form

of the joint NAWGA-International Foodservice Distributors Association annual convention. I think suppliers would applaud a meeting like this, and we may able to get more attendance and a dynamic meeting." Thomas Zaucha, president and chief executive officer of NGA, said the joint convention plan and the NGA-FMI discussions about MarkeTechnics are all elements of NGA's white paper titled "Perspectives and Viewpoints on the Restructuring of Grocery Industry Associations," which was endorsed by its board last October but never made public.

"The goal is to provide the leading grocery industry associations with a flexible, yet meaningful, process to eliminate duplication, reduce overall costs and enhance membership services and representation in the grocery industry," he said.

Neither of the associations would speculate on the logistical details of aligning the two annual conventions, such as revenue structures, what involvement NAWGA would have in NGA's booth show, or how meetings would be run. "Everyone has to be able to maintain some integrity in meeting objectives," Block said. "There would be a lot of meetings separate, and some joint."

The two association heads also wouldn't speculate on the likelihood that their discussions will prove successful. The scenario of joining their conventions has been raised before and found unworkable for various reasons. But there were indications that this time the momentum is stronger.

"This is the first time the NAWGA board has voted unanimously to ask the staff to develop a joint convention plan," Block said. "They haven't accepted the plan yet. And if we're able to put one together, I have to bring it back to the board for approval. But it is a first for the board to say, 'Go see if you can do it.' "

On the subject of the MarkeTechnics show, Zaucha said he has been working with FMI to "secure the appropriate dates and location in 1997" to hold the NGA convention back-to-back with MarkeTechnics. The latter show is considered the industry's premier event for information technology executives. Next year the show is scheduled to be held in February in New Orleans.

An FMI official couldn't be reached for comment.

According to NGA, the group's white paper states that coordinating the timing of MarkeTechnics and the NGA convention would "maximize the exposure of independent retailers and their wholesalers to the industry's newest technology." Zaucha noted that NGA and industry associations have been exploring other moves at cooperation. As reported, NGA, NAWGA, FMI and the American Meat Institute will join in hosting the industry's annual Meat Marketing Conference in Atlanta next month. Previously the various associations had held two shows.

In addition, NAWGA is planning to hold its "Day in Washington" during the dates of the NGA Washington Conference in June.