PARTNERS IN TECHNOLOGY

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Wholesaling cooperatives, created through the partnership of individual retailers, have themselves partnered in many areas of their business to share best practices and reduce costs.One of those areas is technology, and one of the ways co-ops have been leveraging their collective clout to become more efficient distributors of technology to their members is through the Retailer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Wholesaling cooperatives, created through the partnership of individual retailers, have themselves partnered in many areas of their business to share best practices and reduce costs.

One of those areas is technology, and one of the ways co-ops have been leveraging their collective clout to become more efficient distributors of technology to their members is through the Retailer Owned Research Council, based here.

RORC, which is owned by seven grocery-wholesaling cooperatives, develops technologies that the wholesalers can provide to their members at a discount.

Rob Winett, vice president, marketing, Associated Wholesalers, Robesonia, Pa., which is one of the owners of RORC, said that nearly 200 of his company's 500 members have installed RORC's PC-based point-of-sale system.

"It can run an independent store, and it is very cost-effective," said Winett. "The wholesalers are able to provide support fully for the members who use the system."

Several other wholesalers have distributed the system to their members, he said. Other partners in RORC include Associated Food Stores, Salt Lake City; Affiliated Foods Southwest, Little Rock, Ark.; URM Stores, Spokane, Wash.; Affiliated Foods, Amarillo, Texas; Associated Grocers of Baton Rouge, La.; and Unified Western Grocers, Los Angeles.

RORC also provides back-office systems and value-added services, in addition to POS systems.

Cooperative wholesalers also partner in purchasing technology from suppliers through Retailer Owned Food Distributors Association, Birmingham, Ala.

At the association's meeting next week in Chandler, Ariz., for example, ROFDA has scheduled a meeting for the top management of the co-ops who are attending with a software vendor and two consultants to discuss new technology designed to assist wholesalers in setting their prices.

"The whole concept of the software is to try to get a real cost on every [stockkeeping unit]and figure ways of reducing costs so that it can be delivered to the retailer at a better price," said J. Ferrell Franklin, president and chief executive officer, ROFDA. "We think is going to be well-received."

If the wholesalers express interest in the product, he said, ROFDA would attempt to negotiate with the vendor for a discount on the software for its members.

"We can do that as a group much better than we can individually," he said.

Although in the past ROFDA has scheduled meetings exclusively to discuss technology, now such discussions take place in the context of the association's semiannual meetings, which cover a broad range of topics, Franklin said.