Having the opportunity to participate in the National Grocers Association convention this February was a great thrill. We were excited to meet our mentors and to find out what the convention would be like. We had been working hard on our case presentation on Social Media in the Grocery Industry, and we were looking forward to one more day of practice before showtime. We were confident in our presentation, and felt like we engaged the judges' questions imaginatively and well. While we didn't win, the experience was a great one.
The workshops at the convention were interesting and the presenters were exceptionally well prepared. One of the few breakout sessions that was poorly attended was the PCI compliance workshop. The panelists were an executive from a large grocery chain in the eastern US and a compliance specialist from a compliance consultancy firm. The depth of information offered in the session was very impressive, and the subject seems like one that any retailer would be careless to ignore. A market research group presented on shopper experience data trends and some of the ways that grocers have used shopper experience data to improve both the guest experience and their bottom line. The session was standing-room only, and retailers were taking extensive notes. Product pairings and synergistic sales seemed to be of particular interest. After our group's work on the Social Media case, I was especially excited to be able to attend the Social Media presentation given by Gregg Zimprich of General Mills. He was clear that a brand's use of social media requires complete transparency and a loss of control over the brand - that the brand belongs to the consumers. There was also a sense that engaging meaningfully using social media can result in increased intimacy in consumers' relationships with the brand, and increased opportunities to reach out to influencers.
The highlight of my convention experience was walking around the convention floor with my assigned industry mentor, Bill Chew of Supervalu Foods. Bill has been with Supervalu for over 27 years. He is the President of the Midwest/SouthWest Region in Supply Chain. He was a great person to walk the convention floor with - he knew almost everyone there, and he was able to describe how each vendor and participant fit into the overall grocery industry picture. It was especially interesting to hear about Bill's own career trajectory - he has moved around the country with Supervalu over the years, and has performed numerous roles within the company during that time. He introduced us to quite a few people at the convention. I can't stress strongly how valuable having an industry mentor of this caliber was. Bill introduced me to several people who invited me to contact them as a part of my career search. I have contacted them, and have one very promising job lead that I am following as a direct result of being at the convention.
The opening session, America at a Crossroads, with Jeb Bush and James Carvelle, was entertaining and enjoyable. Saturday night's entertainment, the Fab Four, was also great fun. The entire convention was well-paced and well organized. As a newcomer to the industry at the N.G.A. convention, I was given a very positive impression of the grocery business and all of the ancillary services that support it.
I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the convention. I look forward to possibly attending in future years as a member.
Food and Agriculture Business Managment, University of Minnesota
Anna Eggan, Andre Gordillo and Annette Gooch in front of Ceasar's Palace
after the day's activities at the 2011 N.G.A. Convention