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Alliance Companies Mark Two Decades Of Service

Alliance Companies 20th anniversary logo

What differentiates the Hendersonville, Tennessee-based Alliance Companies, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, is the ability to simplify the complex and provide wholistic solutions, all the while being transparent and driving a tremendous value proposition for its retailers as well as a measurable return on investment for its vendor partners. 

Founded in 2004, the company is a one-point contact in all senses of the word. With just a single appointment, a vendor can execute a merchandising plan for 1,400-plus stores. 

While operating as a virtual chain, Alliance Retail Group gets a measurable cost of goods advantage with its scale that benefits retailers. What’s more, all of its retail stores pay the same weekly fee to fund ARG’s cost of operating.

Then there’s the unique payout structure. ARG is a non-profit company, which means it passes 100 percent of the promotional dollars directly to retailers, which in turn pass the savings onto their customers.

Michael Donkin
Michael Donkin

“Between doing a better job at negotiating and then having the tools that iPro Systems gave us, it allowed us to negotiate better and get more money,” said Randy Stepherson, chairman of Superlo Foods, one of the six founding retailers.

Alliance CEO Jena Sowers expanded on this point.

“The value proposition of being a part of Alliance or doing business with Alliance is staggering,” she said. “We also provide tremendous simplification for retailers and vendors in a very complex independent grocery environment.”

Added ARG President Michael Donkin, “Yes, we negotiate the lowest cost of goods, but we also provide our retailers with the flexibility they need to make the best decisions possible in their markets while passing on all the promotional funds from our vendor partners. This is a major point of differentiation in the industry and one that we are proud of.”

No shortage of tools

The company’s ability to provide competitive and affordable turn-key advertising/marketing and technology solutions in the independent grocer space is unique.

Having the capability to analyze stores’ scan information each day through iPro Edge, the company’s new item and category management program, is a definite competitive advantage. This data helps ARG make daily fact-based decisions that benefit both retailers and vendor partners.

The new item program facilitates speed to shelf for vendors as well as their retailers and consumers. 

“We simplify the entire process and provide execution at the shelf for both parties, getting new items into consumers’ hands, homes and mouths as quickly as possible,” said Jeff Hunter, SVP of merchandising and category management.

From a marketing perspective, the company strives to provide retailers complete solutions.

“We take on the brunt of the work and engage consumers in a way that drives trips, baskets, loyalty and overall engagement to our retailer’s stores. Additionally, we are implementing AI models to drive incremental successes in all areas of consumer engagement,” said Whitney Parse, SVP of customer engagement.

Going the extra mile

While other companies are cutting back on customer service, ARG’s leadership team has purposely gone in the opposite direction, increasing its emphasis. In fact, most at the company would agree it is one the biggest points of differentiation. 

Whitney Parse
Whitney Parse

Recognizing the frustration inconsistency can cause, each retailer is assigned a dedicated, experienced staff member at ARG. 

“Clients know that when they call us, not only will they talk to an experienced teammate, but it will be the same person every time,” Sowers said.

Account execs also are tasked with interacting face to face with retailers. They regularly do store tours and get to know the owners and managers. 

“It’s important that they get a feel for what’s happening in the stores locally and connect one on one with our retail clients,” Donkin said. 

It is this personal touch that resonates in everything the company does that helps ARG stand apart. The desire to exceed expectation is well-received by clients and reflected in the high retention rate. 

“We know they have choices, and we hope they see value in the services we provide,” Sowers said. “Customer satisfaction is important to us and drives everything we do.”

Vendor partnerships

ARG has clarity that without its vendor partnerships, it simply couldn’t support its retailers the way it does.

ARG’s goal is to provide simplification and solutions driven by data and be recognized by vendor partners as their most trusted advisor, delivering wholistic solutions that direct consumers to their brands.

With its vendor partners, ARG strives to be collaborative by listening and following through on their commitments by doing what they say they will do.

“We treat our vendors as true partners and work hard to drive their business to achieve the best return on investment possible. When vendors request different solutions to facilitate their success, we listen,” Sowers said. 

Jena Sowers
Jena Sowers

Through the data and analytics capabilities offered by iPro Edge, vendors quickly see financial benefits. 

On average, vendor partners are seeing 4.8 percent dollar growth and 4.1 percent unit growth the year after they have subscribed to iPro Edge.

For officials at Dairy Farmers of America, it’s all about trying to find ways to streamline and simplify the process as much as they can. 

“The solution is difficult because there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Through our partnership with ARG, we’ve been able to continue to evolve and help retailers with their ever-changing environment – that’s the best path forward for everyone,” said Scott Aldridge, VP of sales. 

“Engaging with ARG allows you to interact with thought leaders who can help you maneuver and navigate through the complexities of the wholesale and retail environment that we find ourselves in. Working with them, we have a sense of true transparency and communication.”

Kevin Post, customer business lead for Mondelēz International, said his company would not be able to accomplish necessary day-to-day tasks without the services of ARG.

“The flexibility of program options across all these customer groups in different states has allowed us to do what we do. That partnership is paramount to our business and allowed our team to continue to excel,” Post said.

“Looking at the 1,400-plus stores we manage through ARG, there’s no way my team or business could touch that many stores the way Alliance does. I can’t imagine doing business without Alliance in our portfolio today.”

Added Donkin, “We pride ourselves in being one of the best returns on investment in the independent retailer space. We won’t ask a vendor to run a program with our retailers that doesn’t also drive their success.”

Read more independent store news from The Shelby Report.

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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