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Independents Encourage Use of Social Networks

LAS VEGAS — Independent retailers need to use Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to reach their customers and interact with them, retailers told the annual convention of the National Grocers Association convention here Monday.

“It's evident these networks are top-of-mind for consumers,” Carlos Smith, president of Bodega Latina Corp., Los Angeles, said. “The landscape is still relatively new, but the larger chains are already way ahead of us, so we have to figure how we fit in. People are talking about our businesses all the time, and we need to participate in those discussions and enhance our stores.”

Independents need to use social networks to carve out a unique niche for themselves, Jay Lawrence, president of Lawrence Bros., Sweetwater, Texas, pointed out. ”We need to discover our niche and then go after it. We've got to be in this world.”

According to Chris Coborn, president and chief executive officer of Coborn's, St. Cloud, Minn., “As far as social networks go, the industry is probably in only the first inning, and there are still a lot of things we don't understand. But we need to know we can all use these networks to be better merchants.”

The retailers' remarks came in response to an ongoing series of reports by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council, which presented the second part of its five-part study to NGA. The study points out that it's human nature to connect and communicate with other people, “and you need to understand what people think of you to take control of it,” Craig Elston, the Denver-based senior vice president, insight and strategy, for The Integer Group, which is conducting the study, said Monday.

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