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Chairman Sprinkle Says ROFDA Must Continue To Evolve

Chairman Sprinkle Says ROFDA Must Continue To Evolve

Ray Sprinkle

Ray Sprinkle, URM Stores Inc. president and CEO, has been elected chairman of ROFDA by its board. When he spoke with The Shelby Report in December, Sprinkle’s No. 1 initiative for ROFDA was finding a president and CEO. That was recently accomplished with the addition of Jeff Pedersen, a longtime industry executive with AWG.

Prior to that, the organization was already moving forward with priorities to strengthen its four pillars: conferences, share groups, programs and relationships. 

“ROFDA as a group must evolve to continue its relevance to the independent grocers,” Sprinkle said.

Share groups, which are made up of individuals from each warehouse of the same discipline, are an opportunity to share best practices and programs. Sprinkle added that, “We are expanding the use of share groups and are now meeting monthly rather than once every quarter.”

“The use and expansion of share groups furthers ROFDA’s mission and purpose to facilitate and enhance the success of independent retail grocers,” he said. “We plan to add a food safety share group that addresses regulatory compliance with the FDA and other governmental agencies. 

“The challenge that ROFDA members must meet each and every day is to make sure that the products distributed are of the utmost quality. Our members’ facilities and products must meet stringent requirements necessary to ensure we can distribute with confidence to each of our independent member stores.

“Additionally, while we’re not buying together, there are a number of great programs and best practices that one or two of the warehouses may have adopted. It makes sense for us to collaborate and share those types of things.”

 Sprinkle went on to note that they’re sharing ideas. “How they’re going about it, how we’re going about it, and doing our due diligence to make sure that we can tailor programs and best practices to meet our retailers’ individual needs,” he explained. 

“It’s exciting to have others help us, outside of URM, finding out what’s working and what’s not working so that we don’t make some of the same mistakes. And hopefully, we can implement those programs quicker than if we were doing it by ourselves.”

Opening the ROFDA door to warehouses that may not be owned by retailers also needs to be considered, according to Sprinkle. 

“I think we definitely need to expand our membership,” he said. “When you expand your membership, you bring in new business philosophies and new ideas. We all do the same thing: that’s pick, pack and ship and try to ensure the success of the independent grocers. Just because we are cooperatives doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the voluntary wholesalers out there or others that do the same thing we do.”

He’s also excited at the thought of being inclusive for retailers attending the ROFDA show, which is a new concept. 

“We have to listen to them…they may have their own share groups…we have to be open to ideas and change,” he said. “We need to listen and understand what their biggest issues are and how we can help them solve those.

“We’re going to have the opportunity to hear what those needs are directly from retail. We must listen to what retail needs and then come up with programs that meet their needs to make sure they’re successful.” 

Sprinkle said ROFDA will remain independent but recognizes that maintaining a strong relationship with the National Grocers Association remains essential.

“If we can reduce travel expense and meeting times by combining the NGA and ROFDA conferences, I believe it’s a good idea,” Sprinkle said. “We won’t be able to make that happen for the NGA conference in February – that’s just too quick – but it definitely is on the agenda to figure out how we can do it going forward.

“I’m very excited about the future. I’m excited about the changes that ROFDA is undertaking. The willingness to bring in retailers and expand our membership bodes very well for the sustainability of ROFDA and is one that will bring more value to our member stores.”

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