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Extending Relationships Has Helped ROFDA Remain Relevant

associated food stores ROFDA

Bob Obray

ROFDA board member Bob Obray’s fondest memories of the organization have always centered on building deeper relationships. 

“Across the industry, whether it’s with other cooperative members or vendors, service providers…it’s about relationships. And I think this kind of reinvention, revitalization, whatever you want to call it, ROFDA gives us an opportunity to expand and extend that philosophy of deeper relationships, supporting each other in a more aligned and organized way.”

In the last five years, Obray has seen ROFDA reach its mission by creating a forum where members can share ideas, direction, solutions and innovations. Obray is the president and CEO of Associated Food Stores, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

“The cooperative companies that currently comprise ROFDA, I think that’s the future,” he said. “It’s building upon something that’s already proven. It’s already good and making it even better, and then probably even adapting it to a changing environment. We’ve historically focused on a lot of supply-type issues – cost of goods and product selection – the tangible part of our business.”

Obray has seen the non-tangible components of the grocery business becoming more important in the past several years, such as connections with customers, e-commerce, loyalty programs and digital advertising. 

“If we can take ROFDA to not just being focused on product but making ROFDA help us become better at those connections and interactions with our retail customers, we can remain relevant,” he said. 

Obray is interested by the fact that ROFDA members are all at different levels and sectors of the grocery industry, which helps with the variety of share groups. ROFDA currently has share groups for: finance; human resources; information technology; marketing/advertising/retail services/business development; operations; perishables; and procurement.

“Some are more focused on center store supply, others are focused on fresh, and there’s always something that somebody is doing better. It gives us an opportunity to share innovative solutions,” Obray said. “I grew up in the finance share group – my previous position was CFO. We always had good interactions there, trying to develop some things that we could work on together.”

With supply and labor continuing to be a challenge for grocers, Obray feels ROFDA has excelled in working with share groups and other connections to consult and collaborate on everyday issues. 

“That’s the biggest benefit to me of ROFDA – just having a group of companies out there that we can bounce ideas off of, that we can learn from, that we can share with, that we can build upon concepts together to make them better,” he said. 

He’s also excited for share groups meeting more often. Obray thinks part of that effectiveness is going to be conditioned upon having the right people.

“The people who are really the subject matter experts, the ones that are making the decisions and the ones that will benefit directly from being involved, I’m excited about their participation in the share groups,” he said.

Growing and being more inclusive to wholesalers that aren’t retailer owned gets him excited as well. 

“The more perspectives, opinions, views, solutions, innovative contributions we can get the better. And we kind of limited ROFDA to retailer owned…there’s some large wholesalers out there that are not retailer owned who are challenged by some of the same things we’re challenged with,” he said. 

“Let’s bring them to the table because they’ve probably got some things to share and some things to gain from the interaction…and let’s make it even more appealing for vendors and service providers to come. Because they know there’s a broader variety of wholesalers there who they can interface with and connect with…to me, that’s a no brainer.”

For more information, visit afstores.com.

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