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2010 Power 50: No. 47 Matt Shay

Matt Shay - Power 50 Profile

Matt Shay joined the National Retail Federation in June, during a time of significant supermarket recruitment. Operators are joining the centennial organization looking for guidance on matters of universal importance to all retailers: technology standards, credit-card security, organized crime and interchange rate reform, to name a few.

For Shay, who took over as president and chief executive officer from the retiring Tracy Mullin, the addition of supermarkets to the membership only strengthens the ability of the Washington, D.C.-based association to address the many challenges facing both food and nonfood stores.

“It’s true that not all retailers are grocers, but all grocers are retailers,” he told SN. “The breadth and diversity of our membership provides grocers the opportunity to interact with retailers that are facing many of the same issues but are not necessarily direct competitors.”

Another factor that distinguishes the growing supermarket membership is the realization that certain issues require a more united approach at the highest level.

“The role that we play here, for all our members, is to give them the opportunity to share and develop and explore best practices in retailing,” Shay said.

This broader reach has helped the NRF address a number of key issues simultaneously, with promising results. With help from the group’s recently announced partnership with eBay, as well as initiatives between NRF and federal and state law enforcement agencies, retailers have enjoyed more success in identifying stolen merchandise at physical fence locations such as pawn shops. According to an annual NRF survey on organized crime, 63% stated they were able to intercept stolen merchandise at stores, and 66% in e-fencing operations. Both numbers represent improvements over prior years.

More supermarkets are also joining an NRF division called the Association of Retail Technology Standards, or ARTS. The retailer-driven group was formed to create global standards for retail technology, particularly in-store systems. The effort includes a fresh-food component, with a focus on traceability and country-of-origin labeling. Among the supermarket members of ARTS are Ahold USA, BJ’s Wholesale Club, A&P, Kroger Co., Raley’s Supermarkets and Safeway. Some are also constituents of the larger organization.

“We’ve got all kinds of retailers as members, and I think that’s what grocers have realized — that they’re no longer operating strictly in the food industry, but a retail industry with a lot of cross-promotion and channel-blurring,” noted Shay.

Considered one of the oldest trade organizations in the country, the NRF will host its 100th annual convention next January. Attendance at last year’s expo topped 18,500, with 27% more retailers in attendance. Shay, who already has retail experience from his tenure as president and CEO of the International Franchise Association, anticipates that supermarkets — which joined NRF primarily for assistance on issues related to loss prevention — will become an important contingent of the overall membership.

“There’s been a real blurring of the line between traditional retail and grocers,” he said. “The things that impact retailers that are in luxury goods, or home furnishings, or convenience stores are also going to impact grocery stores.”