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IGA Experiences Growth In Sales, Market Share, Store Count

John Ross

by Eric Pereira / content creator 

The past year was a great one for the Independent Grocers Alliance, according to John Ross, president and CEO. For many of its retailers, 2021 was the best in modern history for top-line sales and market share growth.

“For a 100-year-old-chain, that’s an amazing thing to say,” Ross said. “And we also grew our store count. It was the best store count growth year in modern history.”

IGA has more than 1,200 stores in the U.S., adding some 100 stores in the last year and continuing to grow throughout the country and internationally. 

Supply chain

“Who would have guessed two years later…some of our supply chain issues are worse today than they were at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. And that’s pretty sobering, right?” Ross said. 

He noted the pandemic has revealed the fragility of the global supply chain. However, the industry has remained resilient. 

“The wholesalers have done a spectacular job, the brands have done a spectacular job having to develop, bolt-on solutions to help you to anticipate and manage demand,” he said. “And I would say that our wholesale partners have also gotten really good at substitution.

“If you went out and you met with independents, and you say, ‘Tell me about your year,’ they would tell you they’re exhausted. They would tell you that they’re tired of all these issues. The other thing they would say is, ‘Imagine how good sales could have been up if I’d actually been in stock?’”

Vaccination mandates

On Jan. 13, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to pause the U.S. OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19 vaccination and testing for private businesses.

“I think every small business owner would say to you that, ‘I want to be able to protect my associates and my families to operate the business. And I want to be able to protect my shoppers,’” Ross said. “And I think every one of them intellectually would love to be able to live in an environment in which everyone’s protected.”

However, Ross believes that the legislation that was recommended clashed with the “practical reality” of running a business.

He expressed concerns over falsified vaccine cards, as well as a shortage of COVID-19 tests. 

“Because of the way the vaccination has been described, because of the misinformation in the community, many people are afraid to get it,” he added. 

Ross said there are some stores where 100 percent of staff members are vaccinated, while there are others at significantly less than that. 

“A lot of that is regional,” he said. “And those numbers match the community…whatever the attitude is in the community…a lot of it has to do with the rhetoric within local and state governments…the tactics that work in community A don’t seem to work in community B.

IGA Global Rally and NGA Show

Ross said that for the first time, IGA is going to run the IGA Global Rally concurrently with the NGA Show on Feb. 27- March 22.

“In the spirit of ‘if the independent segment wins and grows, in aggregate, we all win’ – we have decided to make our content available to all retailers, IGA’s or not,” he said. 

Still supporting communities

In a year that left many grocers exhausted, Ross continued to be impressed by how independent retailers supported their communities. 

“If you look at our contributions to local food bank banks or contributions to charities to help feed at-risk Americans, or our support of SNAP and WIC programs that provide incremental discounts for buying fresh produce and meat and all the other programs that we do to help protect and ensure the health of our communities – none of those got pushed to the bottom of the list,” Ross said. 

He added that he is excited by the number of people eating at home. “There’s millions of Americans that have rediscovered the joy of cooking.”


A continued point of emphasis for Ross was that grocers need to take seriously the threat of cyberattacks to their business. 

“Our country is under attack by government-sponsored organized crime,” Ross said. “They have discovered and they believe that there is a way to destabilize the American economy if you allow a community of organized cybercriminals to attack small businesses and local governments and local hospitals and local police departments with cyberattacks. And we see it happening and accelerating.” 

IGA offers a free audit process using a third party. And it has a model for top practices one should do in order to harden their systems.

“Just a tiny bit of effort now can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars later,” Ross said. 

For more information about IGA, visit iga.com/about.

For more news about IGA from The Shelby Report, click here.

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