Home » MGA Coverage: Independents Know Their Customers

MGA Coverage: Independents Know Their Customers

John Kerry and Dan Shaul

Last updated on August 31st, 2022 at 03:00 pm

Ask Dan Shaul, state director of the Missouri Grocers Association (MGA), about the advantages independent retailers have in his state, and he will tell you a story.

“We did a store opening several years ago, and the owner knew almost everybody in that store that was coming in,” Shaul told The Shelby Report. “He relocated the store a few blocks and he knew every consumer coming in. He knew a lot of them by name, but it was not just ‘Miss Jones, how are you doing?’ It was ‘Miss Jones, how’s your son doing? Is he over that cold?’”

That, Shaul said, is what independents in the state love about their business: getting to know their customers.

On the flipside, the state’s grocery retailers feel burdened with the government being “so much in their ­business that they are spending more and more time in the back rooms and boardrooms in planning sessions on how to deal with the new laws and regulations and other burdens,” Shaul said.

Retailers would rather spend time with customers than wade through red tape. Shaul spends a good deal of his time helping to make sure they can do just that. But their biggest concern right now is “not knowing what’s coming,” he said.

“Certainly we don’t have a crystal ball, but they would like to see the federal government in a state that would give them some cost certainty going forward,” Shaul said. “We’re not sure about the 2001, 2003 Bush tax cuts yet—are they going to expire? The estate tax, where’s it going to be at the end of 2012? What can we expect between now and the presidential election?”

If there were some certainty, he believes grocers would hire more people, build or remodel more stores and better address initiatives like “buy local.”

Though far from stagnant, for now, Missouri’s grocery retailers are carefully examining each individual ­opportunity, Shaul said. There are a few new stores rising from the ground, but certainly not as many as there would be in a better economy.

“Most of our retailers are very conservative to begin with, with their money. They’re not looking for any handouts from the government. They’re not looking for anybody to help them,” Shaul said. “They’re willing to take the burden of expansion and growth on themselves and I think they’re just a little hesitant. If we could get some of the cost certainty going forward, I think we’d see definitely the bubble burst a little bit and get some further activity.”

Shaul talked with Geoff Welch, The Shelby Report’s Midwest Regional Manager, at the MGA Convention & Merchandising Show, which was held Aug. 25-28 at Chateau on the Lake in Branson. Shaul said it was a “great weekend.

“We bring all these members together, all these board members together, and they’re fierce competitors, yet when they step foot inside our annual convention, they put those things aside and come together for the betterment of the industry. Now, tomorrow, they’ll go right back to work at being fierce competitors, making sure consumers get the fairest, safest product available.”

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Next year’s convention will be held Aug. 16-19 at Branson Landing Convention Center.

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Featured Photo PLMA Annual Private Label Trade Show
Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Chicago, Illinois
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