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Batenic: Future Is Bright For IGA

Mark Batenic, xCEO, IGA Inc. 025

The annual IGA Global Rally wrapped up Tuesday in Chicago. The show, which began April 13, returned this year to The Windy City for the first time in a decade.

IGA CEO Mark Batenic told The Shelby Report at the show that “attendance is off the charts.”

“We had over 500 people who came and attended, which is very, very good considering the economic times…but traditionally IGA usually has their best crowds when times are tough because our retailers want to come and learn how they can take care of the shoppers who are coming in the store. There are tons of new trends out there—new influences that are making shoppers buy products, research products and use products in different ways than we ever thought before.”

IGA has a growing membership, too, according to Batenic.

“IGA is an international organization. Last year we had a very positive year, in 2012, in the United States,” he said. “And our growth outside the United States is just spectacular. I just don’t know how else to describe it.”

IGA entered three new countries last year—India, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea. Like the U.S. population, people in those countries, Batenic revealed, “want to eat and want to know about the independent grocery movement.”

In addition to making inroads abroad, IGA is accomplishing much here at home. In fact, the company is working with its partners on a program called Performance Insights, which is expected to launch in the fall.

“I think we’re going to be able to pull together for the first time the collective buying power but also, more importantly, the selling and merchandising power, of all 1,200 IGAs across the United States,” Batenic said.

He pointed out that IGA retailers across the U.S. are served by 13 different wholesalers that “sometimes are competitors.”

“But at the end of the day they take their hats off and they pull together for the benefit of the IGA brand, among the 1,200 independently owned stores across the country,” Batenic said. “So this Performance Insights is the first time in everybody’s memory that we’ve been able to really pull something like this off.”

As for the future of IGA, Batenic said the brand is in good hands.

“What really is gratifying to us is the second-generation retailers,” Batenic said. “In other words, parents are passing the stores on to their children and their relatives and (the family is) staying in the business. That is going on now as the baby boomers are moving through their (lives). Some of them are retiring and the kids are taking over.”

Plus, Batenic said, IGA is generating interest from folks who are new to the grocery business.

“Now we tell them it is not easy, but they’re all for it,” Batenic said. “They want to go for it, and we’re there.”

Find photos from the show here.


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