Independent' Attention

Suppliers, board set sites on reaching out to small retailers in 2009
NORTHFIELD, Ill. & ST. LOUIS -- Independent convenience-store retailers may get a boost in 2009 as some major suppliers, working on their own and through the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Supplier Board, plan to target that segment of the industry. Noting both independents' bulkthey account for about 60% of all c-stores in the countryand need for knowledge, these suppliers aim to provide retailers with the information they need.

"We are trying to get involved in providing value to the independent retailers," Brad Heetland, regional vice president [image-nocss] of national accounts for Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods, told CSP Daily News when he took on the position of chairman of the NACS Supplier Board earlier this year, "and I think if we go down that avenue and the retail community understands what the suppliers can providein terms of value, consumer insights and consumer behaviorI think that'll be a benefit for 2009.

"Most of us [suppliers] make presentations to chain accounts," he added, "and we think we can use NACS as a medium to provide information about our companies through their means."

Joe Vonder Haar, vice president of the convenience channel for Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, agreed.

"That's why we're on the NACS Supplier Board; we want to extend [our knowledge] to the independent retailer," he told CSP Daily News. "They're the ones that touch consumers every day, and it's really important that we take the same level of scientific management of this category down to a usable, simple level at all stores, chain and independent."

While Vonder Haar said he feels A-B does as good or better a job as any supplier in delivering its products to independent retailers, he added, "We need to make sure that we are putting the same tools in the hands of our wholesalers and the same strategy and approach that addresses the needs of a c-store retailer as we do with a chain. That is a significant initiative [for A-B in 2009].

"We want to make sure that we understand the needs of this customer, [and] that includes chains, independents, large regionals, small regionals and a great customer base that we need to make sure that we're servicing with every ounce of intensity that we have available to us because they sell a lot of ounces for us."

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