Despite the digital revolution, brick-and-mortar stores will still be relevant, "but ecommerce will be a disruption," Joe Sheridan, president and COO of Wakefern Food Corp. and outgoing chairman of the National Grocers Association, said Sunday night at the opening session of NGA's annual convention in Las Vegas.
"But because the independent owner is so close to his business, he can move faster to find a way to overcome that disruption," Sheridan noted.
Peter Larkin, president and CEO of NGA, agreed. "Independents are entrepreneurs, and this is an opportunity for the independents to lead."
Larkin made his remarks during a convention session during which he interviewed Sheridan and Rich Niemann Jr., president and CEO of Niemann Foods, Quincy, Ill., and the incoming NGA chairman.
According to Niemann, a lot of consumer uncertainty still exists about the state of the national economy. "People are still struggling — they buy what they need, not what they want, and that affects our mix, and we believe it will be that way for a while longer."
Sheridan said he expects 2014 to be "a very grinding year," particularly with the reductions in food stamps. "It will be a year of fundamentals in which we'll have to be very precise in how we price because that's what's going to drive volume."
In opening remarks, Larkin said the 3,000-plus registrants set an attendance record for an NGA convention.
"The independent grocery channel is a vital force, accounting for nearly 1% of the nation's gross domestic product," he said. "Independent grocers continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of their customers, and the NGA Show was created as the place where independents gather to discuss innovative ideas they can then implement in their own stores.
"This year's strong turnout of independent grocers and wholesalers, and those who support this industry, speaks to the value attendees see in the NGA Show."
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