Looking Back on a Year of Critical Industry Issues

This issue marks the first anniversary of Retail Leader's launch, and I would like to thank the industry for its participation, our sponsors for their support and the Grocery Manufacturers Association for its partnership in this highly successful endeavor.

In analyzing the critical issues of the past year, I asked Stagnito Media editors for their opinions.

Don Longo, editor-in-chief, Convenience Store News:
"The poor economy and high unemployment have depressed consumer confidence and spending, and this was really exacerbated by the record high fuel prices we experienced months ago. The lack of government decision-making has also contributed to reduced investment by the private sector. The other important trend is technology, specifically mobile, which enables consumers to shop, compare prices and find deals on the go, and [it is] changing the way retailers advertise and market themselves."

Meg Major, editorial director, Progressive Grocer:
"While the nation's retailers have received positive momentum in the past year, the frugal shifts in consumer behavior adopted during the economic downturn will persist for the foreseeable future. In the interim, the most productive retailers remain laser-focused on elevating the value propositions of their stores' offerings via aggressive pricing and promotional strategies, data-driven merchandising schemes and efficient floor plans."

Kathie Canning, editorial director, Progressive Grocer's Store Brands:
"We see the 'local' movement as the biggest trend, followed closely by health and wellness and the blurring of retail formats [with] the continuation of drug stores and dollar stores beefing up grocery offerings. In addition, retailers are aiming to be a resource for health and wellness information, with most now having at least one registered dietitian as well as a comprehensive health and wellness section on their websites."

Jennifer Acevedo, editor-in-chief, Retail Leader:
"Mobile technology has opened up the 'online' world to brick and mortar retailers, allowing them to communicate one-on-one with shoppers as they walk down the aisle and to empower their employees to provide information on demand. Research indicates that smartphone shoppers are 14 percent more likely to convert and make a purchase in the store than non-smartphone users."

As I look back on the year, my concern is uneducated advocacy groups and their growing influence in forcing unjust changes in our industry. Spurred on by mass media, they are infringing on regulatory bodies' abilities to uphold established policies for the public good. Examples are the "pink slime" controversy and the Center for Science in the Public Interest's attacks on Nestlé and the Girl Scouts for promoting a co-branded candy.

All of the above issues pose challenges, but we also know that contained in every challenge is an opportunity. It will be very interesting to see what the next year brings. Stay tuned.

As I look back on the year, my concern is uneducated advocacy groups and their growing influence in forcing unjust changes in our industry.

– Harry Stagnito,

President and CEO, Stagnito Media