FORMAT FOR SUCCESS

To the Editor:7 column, "Format Proliferation" could also have been named "Format for Success." That's because survivors in the global-retailing-consolidation race will feature multi-format expertise. That makes sense since it allows retailers to leverage their investment in technology, and optimize their supply-chain efficiencies and buying clout.The world's three largest retailers ( Wal-Mart Stores,

To the Editor:

7 column, "Format Proliferation" could also have been named "Format for Success." That's because survivors in the global-retailing-consolidation race will feature multi-format expertise. That makes sense since it allows retailers to leverage their investment in technology, and optimize their supply-chain efficiencies and buying clout.

The world's three largest retailers ( Wal-Mart Stores, Carrefour and Metro) operate at least four distinct formats: hypermarket/supercenter, supermarket, cash & carry/club and convenience. For example, Wal-Mart has supercenters, clubs, supermarkets, discount stores, and, in Mexico, convenience store/restaurants.

Format diversity can mean a smaller box such as the Costco, Wal-Mart and Home Depot tests. The real winners will translate format diversity to a presence in distinct trade channels. The ultimate objective of a retailer is to capture as many consumer purchases as possible [by using format variety].

Gregory Seminara vice president International Acosta Sales Atlanta

Independent Challenge

To the editor:

In the article, "Independents' Competitive Disadvantage Aired," SN, March 13, 2000, Page 1, a major challenge to independents and their wholesalers is accurately described and proven in our experience.

The upshot then must be, why are independents so far behind in "planogram maintenance and integrity" and in "speed-to-shelf of new products"?

We are one of the lonely few IGA independents in Southern California, and we run an excellent 36,000 sq. ft. combination supermarket and Ace Hardware. We have had extensive experience dealing with Certified Grocers of Calif., True Value Hardware, and currently are customer/members of Fleming's Phoenix Division, and Ace Hardware.

From our experience over 25 years, several factors contribute to independents' being "behind":

1. The wholesalers do not give anywhere near adequate support to independent retailers in either area. In the case of new items, we have to dredge to find out what is coming, and guess out of the clear blue sky which ones are significant or have marketing support. Both broker and direct sales representatives, declining in number themselves, resist helping us for various reasons, in our case, largely due to the geography of our wholesaler's location. The Fleming distribution center for our store is in Phoenix -- a separate market area from us .

2. Help with planograms has been sporadic at best, and is nonexistent at present. Often it depends heavily on the expertise and interest of individual sales representatives who may happen to call on us for a while. Some wholesalers, like Fleming, have extensive programs in place to help retailers with shelf management, but they are severely undermanned and what help is available is being swallowed up by independent chains who seem to be in a constant state of flux.

3. Independent retailers as a group vary widely as to their interest in and excellence of their operations. Some (too many) simply don't have a clue and really don't care. As a result, the rest of us get categorized as part of that difficult and expensive segment of the industry and are then overlooked.

4. Wholesalers are confronting huge challenges regarding the form they will have to take to compete and survive. They themselves are struggling to reinvent themselves, with varying degrees of success. During this time of change, more energy is going into reorganizing and learning new roles, and less to the customer directly.

Some may wonder, why bother with this difficult group, the independents? If they (we) die out, so be it. The free market dictates who wins and who loses, so if independents can't compete, they shouldn't survive. To those we should say, we still do a lot of business and intend to keep doing so.

And, in the words of our IGA leader, Dr. Tom Haggai, "We are an alternative format with a different mission -- to bag our groceries with hometown pride and blend into the community activities where we're residents, not hired transients. Only a store? Never. A rock of stability."

We believe people need and respond to the warmth and relationships independent stores provide. We call on the wholesalers to get it together and support us in carrying it out.

Linda Gommel, Assistant General Manager Lucerne Valley Market Lucerne Valley, Calif.

Senior Suggestions

To the Editor:

I want to submit a plea to the food industry for myself and others in the same situation as I am in:

PLEASE WILL YOU ENLARGE THE EXPIRATION DATE ON COUPONS SO PEOPLE WITH "SENIOR" EYESIGHT CAN USE THEM WITHOUT EMBARRASSMENT!!!

I clip coupons. I like doing it. Sometimes they get used; sometimes I just get a lot of dexterity exercise. For my husband and me, the coupons are hard to use.

It is not our intention to put before the clerk coupons that have expired but sometimes we misread the dates because the print is so small and we are in a hurry.

We are the "leading edge" of the baby boomers and the problem is going to get worse. Large print in nice bold ink would be such a help for us.

I also have a second request. Could supermarkets periodically print out maps/lists of where products are found in their stores and have them on hand at the store or put them in the weekly flyers?

First of all, it would help us plan our shopping trip better (so we don't forget items we need to have); it would save us a few steps (bad knees, hips, etc., which force us to keep our shopping time to a minimum), and it would save many, many arguments at home ("and just WHERE am I supposed to find THAT!").

Scattering items throughout a store to make us wander longer does not increase sales; it makes us find a smaller store where fewer steps are required to get the basics. Almost every person I know in our age group has got back or knee problems that limit walking (especially on hard concrete floors) and having to wander around supermarkets looking for something that should be easy to find is at the top of the aggravation list.

Brenda Pawlowski Monroe County, Mich.