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The Changing Face of the Convention

BY Jeff Green

This is not your father’s (or my father’s) RECon. True, the conference wasn’t called that back then, but it is clear to me that this influential annual event is evolving. I see three relatively new RECon trends/developments that I think are significant beyond the conference itself; indicating bigger-picture changes within the broader retail real estate industry:

Stronger international presence
The international element of the convention has definitely been noteworthy in recent years, a trend I think is likely to continue. Part of that is because of the growing presence of international brands on the American retail landscape—to complement the growth of U.S. brands overseas—but I think on a deeper, more fundamental level, it is perhaps the inevitable result of an increasingly connected world (and interconnected) world. Thanks to the Internet, you can buy anything from anywhere at any time. Retail—and, in particular, retail branding—has become a worldwide phenomenon. After all, when you put something out there on Twitter, for example, you are not just reaching your regional or domestic market, you are reaching a global market.

More municipalities attending
I have seen attendance by municipalities spike in recent years, and, with that, I think RECon has been seeing a correspondingly more diverse spectrum of exhibitors. It’s not surprising, if you think about it. Tax revenues are shrinking, and municipalities are looking to drive them back up. I think the increased municipal attendance is the result of a growing understanding that they have to be proactive about bringing in more retail. The success of improvement by districts and similar initiatives around the country provides a blueprint on how to make this happen, but municipalities are finding that they have to really court the iconic brands. A lean economy has only ramped up the competition for big names, prompting municipalities to step up marketing efforts. Downtowns are even open to big boxes they would not have even considered in the past. But, in today’s market, you need a compelling story because retailers have more options than ever before.

A younger and more diverse group of attendees
This is actually less of a trend and more of a need. While the industry is certainly getting more diverse in some ways (more international participants and more women), we still need more youth. We’ve come a long way, but I think we still have room for improvement. I can remember when I got started in the business and I was continually surprised by how many of the movers and shakers in the industry were men—especially for retail sectors like women’s apparel. Thankfully, we are over that hump, but we are still seeing relatively few young people going into this industry (interestingly, where I am seeing stronger youth participation is in family operations: there are quite a few second-generation professionals coming into the business; especially in the brokerage community). I think the retail real estate industry needs to step it up a bit, here. I think that if there was more of an ongoing collaboration between industry representatives and colleges and other educational/training institutions to create programs and incentives for our industry, it could help boost youth and minority participation. After all, the next generation of shoppers is going to know if a retailer really understands them and “speaks their language.”

What do you think? Have you noticed other changes in recent years? Are you expecting more changes like this in 2012? Please make a public comment below or feel free to e-mail me privately at [email protected].


Click here for past columns by Jeff Green.

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Kroger honored for promoting food safety

BY CSA STAFF

CINCINNATI — The International Association for Food Protection is honoring Kroger with the 2012 Black Pearl Award for advancing food safety and quality.

The (IAFP) names one company annually for its efforts to advance food safety and quality through consumer programs, employee relations, educational activities, adherence to standards, and support of the goals and objectives of the IAFP.

"Food safety is Kroger’s top priority. We want to ensure our customers can count on wholesome, fresh, and safe food from farm to table. We are proud to receive this important recognition from the International Association of Food Protection," said David Dillon, Kroger’s chairman and chief executive officer. "Kroger’s focus on food safety is a natural extension of our "Customer 1st" strategy, which engages all of our employees – in every store, plant, distribution center and office – around one common purpose, to serve the customer first in every decision we make. While every Kroger associate plays an essential role in food safety and shares in this award, I’d like to thank our team of food safety experts for their leadership in the areas of risk prevention, continuous improvement, and safety innovation."

Kroger earned the reward for taking the following actions to ensure food safety and quality:

  • Conducts a bi-monthly food safety review audit of each store. These audits are conducted by third-party firms and augment inspections conducted by local health departments and company associates. In 2010, Kroger conducted 14,753 food safety reviews and followed up on results to resolve any issues that were identified.

  • Providing customers with information to ensure safe food handling. We provide education around proper grilling and cooking temperatures, safe food handling tips, and general information about food safety at home.

  • Kroger was one of the first retailers to implement a customer notification system for certain types of recalls. Using our customer loyalty database, we are able to notify customers through register receipt messages and automated phone calls about recalls of products they may have purchased. Kroger was also one of the first retailers to endorse the Rapid Recall Exchange, the food industry’s only online recall notification system – and was the first national retail chain to encourage its suppliers to subscribe to this industry-leading program.

  • Kroger manufactures almost half of the company’s corporate brand items in its 39 food-processing plants and stocks about 11,000 of corporate brand items per supermarket. In 2010, every Kroger manufacturing plant received full Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certifications. These standards are best-in-class and require constant improvement in food safety as measured by certified third-party auditing companies. All of Kroger’s private-label suppliers are required to have GFSI certification as well.

The Black Pearl Award will be presented at IAFP’s Annual Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island in July.

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Retail sales stagger in April

BY CSA STAFF

WASHINGTON — A Tuesday report by the Commerce Department showed that U.S. retail sales during the month of April edged up 0.1%, following a 0.7% gain in March and marking the smallest rise of the year so far. The gain was in line with projections.

Excluding auto sales, retail sales climbed 0.1% in April.

An early Easter and unusually mild temperatures may have impacted the results by pulling consumers into the stores in March, industry experts said. The average temperature in March was the warmest ever recorded in the United States, and Easter fell on April 8, compared with April 24 the year before.

Sales at specialty apparel and department stores sagged in April – down 0.7% and 0.1% respectively. Still, nine of 13 major categories showed gains last month, led by auto dealers, furniture stores and non-store retailers that included online merchants.

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