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NGA: Bringing local to life

nga local2
Photo by Greg Johnson

SAN DIEGO – Independent retailers have more competition than ever, but one advantage they still have is their location.

They are local, and the biggest generation of consumers values that.

At a February 23 National Grocers Association annual convention session, Nick Lenzi, senior vice president of buying and marketing for Busch’s Inc., a 17-store retail chain in Michigan, said, “the more local, the more popular.”

“Success comes from deliberately being different,” he said. “We either have to do a unique set of activities or do the same activities differently.”

Lenzi said for Busch’s stores, they define local as from Michigan, and consumers embrace that.

Michigan is a prolific producer of fruits and vegetables, but because of its northern climate, fresh fruits and vegetables are seasonal. One thing the company does is run a chart on its website showing customers when items are in season and available.

He said the company decided it wouldn’t be beaten in the market with local produce, but that wasn’t easy. Many local growers are too small to have a distribution network, so Busch’s set up a warehouse specifically to handle local produce.

Lenzi said the Michigan fresh sweet cherry season is about eight to ten weeks, and Busch’s contracts as many local growers as possible.

“We really blow it out, make it an event,” he said, which means fresh cherries in stores, but also cherry pies, events, and heavy promotion, in store and across media platforms.

Busch’s also makes its name in local beer, stocking as many as 300 Michigan-based brewers’ products in their stores.

He said in all the retailer does, it tries to integrate it across all media, to have the same message and appearance.

“We bring local to life,” he said.


Greg Johnson is the Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services.