retail news in context, analysis with attitude

IGA yesterday announced what it called "the launch of IGA Groceries Online - or IGA GO as it will be branded to shoppers - an ecommerce solution that meets shoppers’ need for a convenient online ordering platform from their trusted local Hometown Proud IGA store."

According to the announcement, "IGA has named two preferred partners to bring IGA GO to its more than 1,100 IGA licensed retailers across the U.S. The partners, Digital Foodie and Freshop, will begin providing their optional online grocery services to IGA retailers immediately."

In an email to IGA members, Jim Walz, vice president of brand development for IGA USA, writes, "So why online shopping and why now? Because, as we all know, online shopping has become an essential element to shopper service in today's grocery marketplace. But that doesn't mean there's no room for traditional stores. Quite the contrary, in fact. We also know that online shoppers migrate towards a trusted brick and mortar store, which means that IGA retailers are in a unique position to leverage their well-established in-store relationships in the ecommerce space. With the right program and the right partners, the attentive service and personalized offerings that are signature to a Hometown Proud IGA store transfer easily to an online world where shoppers make grocery purchases whenever and wherever is most convenient for them."
KC's View:
Not to be contrarian here, but ... in some ways, the most important word in the IGA announcement is "optional." Because it points to what may be a core flaw in the IGA business model, which is a pervasive inconsistency that affects its retail fleet.

Let's face it. There are some very good IGA stores out there. But there also are some stores that seem like they haven't changed very much in the past 20 years, that behave as though the "hometown proud" slogan is a shield against modern realities as opposed to just one weapon (and not even the most important one) in an increasingly challenging competitive environment.

I guess I would argue that as progressive as Jim Walz's statement may sound, what needs to be said to a sizable percentage of the IGA fleet is that there is a revolution taking place, and it is time to rethink what "traditional" and "well-established in-store relationships" actually mean. If I were IGA, I'd be pointing out that the vast majority of IGA shoppers almost certainly use Amazon, and that Amazon will be aggressive, ambitious and relentless in trying to steal away as much business as it can - and that in the face of things like Subscribe and Save, a decent private label program, friendly checkout personnel and a "hometown proud" banner may simply not be enough.

Optional? Hell, I'd make the development of an e-commerce program virtually mandated if one wanted to keep the IGA name ... and then I'd start mandating all sorts of other requirements for retailers to stay in the family. This is no time for reassurances and encomiums. This is a time to start scaring the hell out of people.