Progressive Grocer

DEC 2016

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Page 21 of 135

Industry Events Feature A s it does every year, the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Retail's BIG Show this January will offer a wide array of forward-thinking re- tail thought leaders to speak, exhibit and connect with in New York. Perhaps the leading figure addressing attendees at this year's event will be visionary and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, founder of the London-based Virgin Group. Beginning as a retailer in the early 1970s, Branson, through a mail-order record business that evolved into Virgin Record stores, built a business empire that now comprises nearly 400 companies and boasts global brand revenues totaling $24 billion. Today, the Virgin Group is a leading international investment organization that has grown successful businesses in the telephone, travel and transporta- tion, financial services, leisure and entertainment, and health-and-wellness sectors. Branson has even been knighted for his services to entrepreneurship. True, he's not a grocer, but through his "Undy- ing Brand Engagement in an Age of Continuous Disruption and Reinvention" presentation, Branson will address arguably the foremost topic relevant in grocery retail today: the importance of constantly working to achieve relevance to, and relationships Power to the People NRF's 2017 show will put spotlight on customer-centric retailing. By Randy Hofbauer with, the ever-changing consumer popu- lation. is is an especially huge issue as grocers turn their focus from products and stores to consumers themselves — a shift that's anticipated to be a huge topic in presentations, on the show floor and elsewhere during the show. The Customer is Always Right Customer-centricity is an especially big deal in an era when consumers de- mand to know more than ever before about the products they purchase — and expect brands and the folks that sell them to deliver. Recent years have seen increasing in- terest in products with a stronger focus on health and wellness, safety, sustainability, ethical procurement, and more, making such attributes critical for new product success. Further, 94 percent of consum- ers value transparency about everything, from ingredients to sourcing and manufacturing pro- cesses, when purchasing items, according to Chicago- based technology company Label Insight. is means that companies need to make sure that they're truly delivering the attributes consumers want, and that they're open about it. And not just manufacturers: While, on average, they placed most responsibility on farmers and manufacturers, respon- dents to a 2015 survey from e Center for Food Integrity (CFI), of Kansas City, Mo., put 16 percent, 17 percent and 13 percent of responsibility on grocers for the impact of food on health, food safety and environmental impact, respectively. ey also placed 15 percent and 11 percent of responsibility on them for human rights and animal well-being, respectively, and 16 percent on them for business ethics. Since 40 percent of consumers expected trans- parency efforts only to get better — and 11 percent fewer thought the opposite, compared with two years before the CFI research — grocers that aren't currently on the ball with regard to transparency and authenticity need to work with their partners to better respond to consumer demands here. e best place to start is in what they actually do: CFI notes that consumers, in five of the six areas listed above, value a company's practices over poli- 22 | Progressive Grocer | Ahead of What's Next | December 2016 s H ow B usiness This January's Retail B i G s how will offer a forum for a wide array of forward- thinking retail thought leaders.

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