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ARG Has Evolved To Offer Suite Of Services

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Twenty years ago, Joe Wolf and Barry Maddox set out to create a company different from all others that serve independent retailers.

Having been in the industry for decades, Wolf and Maddox intuitively knew they could get independent retailers more promotional trade dollars by working directly with consumer-packaged goods companies than what the retailers could negotiate on their own. 

The pair believed this was a crucial step in helping independents become more competitive in their respective markets.

They named the company Alliance Retail Group, or ARG, and started the business in 2004 with six independent retailers – Randy Stepherson, Joey Hays, Gene Wade, Ward Ragland, Greg Neumann and Scott Means. 

While giving the “little guys” a leg up drove everything the company would set out to do, its founders created a unique business proposition to help them stand apart.

It was also important to them that the company be built around a strong work culture backed by a key set of core values and guiding principles.

Suite of services

Without a doubt, doing business has grown more complex over the past two decades. Engaging shoppers is now a multi-faceted endeavor. 

Recognizing the need to help retailers be stronger, more profitable and navigate these changing times, ARG successfully diversified its business reach over the past two decades. 

The company realized that for everyone – retailers, vendors and their teammates – to thrive, it would need to offer a suite of services that included technology and marketing expertise. 

In addition to negotiating the lowest cost of goods for AWG-supplied retailers, ARG’s services include full-service category management and new items programs. Those services are supported by the organization’s technology company, iPro Systems, who provides many other technical solutions to ARG retailers, the flagships of which are iPro Billing and iPro Edge. iPro Billing is a touchless billing and adjudication system that offers timely and simplified billing, and iPro Edge is an independent friendly analytics platform that uses both scan and purchase data to illuminate action ready business analytics.

In addition to negotiating and technology services, ARG also provides access to a full-service marketing agency. Leveraging the strong deal negotiations from ARG and data from iPro, ARG Marketing is a uniquely positioned agency that can not only provide top-of-the-line marketing solutions and materials but measure the sales impact of those marketing vehicles in near real time to provide a receipt to retailers.

It’s the depth and breadth of services that has helped the company grow and thrive. Today, ARG members grow an average of 6.1 percent in retail sales as a direct result of the impact of these combined services.

Alliance Retail Group started out with a customer base of 56 stores supplied by Associated Wholesale Grocers. Today, it is a virtual chain of more than 1,400 stores, representing $16.5 billion in annual sales, or 70 percent of AWG business.

The group – which is celebrating its 20th anniversary – is now the largest self-negotiating ad group by retail volume in the country.

“Independent retailers are up against Kroger, Walmart and other large national chains,” said Jena Sowers, CEO of Alliance Retail Group. “To stay competitive and best serve their consumers, they look to Alliance to provide affordable services and advanced solutions that level the playing field.” 

[RELATED: Alliance Companies Mark Two Decades Of Service]

Adapting to changes 

From the very first days in business, the goal was finding ways to help independent retailers move forward and spend their dollars wisely while minding a budget. Having the ability to find all the services they need under one roof has been a huge competitive advantage.

According to Sowers, the company’s iPro division was created to provide a touchless and automated billing and adjudication system for ARG retailers for scan promotions. And for ARG’s vendor partners, to be a one-stop shop to execute those scan promotions across all ARG retailer’ stores versus having to manage them store by store.  

Today, iPro is the leading technology company for independent retailers in the country, supporting more than 4,000 stores. It offers complete visibility to scan and shipment data for 70 percent of AWG business. ARG’s iPro Edge offers best-in-industry data and analytics, utilizing shipment and consumption data.

“The forethought from our founders to create our technology subsidiary in ARG’s early years has continued to be a catalyst for our success. iPro and the technology it’s created has facilitated so much of what we are able to do for our retailers and vendor partners and is truly one of our key differentiators that we will continue to keep as central focus,” Sowers said.

ARG also owns a full-service, not-for-profit marketing agency that facilitates its retailers engaging consumers by creating custom, hyper-local advertising that resonates. It handles the ads for all its clients, negotiating and publishing more than 10,000 items for temporary price reductions, with incremental trade funds for reduced shelf price.

ARG also coordinates EDLC pricing on key items that are regularly reviewed against chain competition’s everyday value pricing. “We have the ability to implement any pricing strategy with our software,” Sowers said.

The group works off one national base ad but can customize for its many independent retailers based on geography, which means it can customize an ad to match local items with the stores in that area. 

She added that the three companies exist to provide retailers with solutions and services that allow them to thrive in an ultra-competitive grocery landscape.

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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