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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, your first stop for retail website design services.

More than a half dozen years ago, I had the opportunity to hang out with and write about an organization called Raise The Bar, which essentially is a loose confederation of independent retailers in Northern California that banded together to create for themselves a differential advantage in the marketplace. Frustrated by the fact that they were being dominated by the chains’ financial advantage, and unable to get the kind of attention they wanted from major manufacturers, these retailers decided that they could help each other by sharing marketing and merchandising ideas and even developing a little buying muscle by working together rather than apart. In other words, instead of sitting around whining about the need for a level playing field, they did something about it.

One of the things that impressed me most about Raise The Bar was the fact that the involved retailers realized that as much as they couldn’t get the attention of major suppliers, there were a lot of smaller suppliers out there that couldn’t get the attention of big retailers. So they created an alliance with some of these manufacturers, and even started developing private label lines that only they carry – which is an incredibly smart thing to do. And while the Raise The Bar retailers were having a tough time competing before they teamed up, in the days that followed many of them were generating double-digit growth. Which ain’t bad.

Now, as sometimes happens when people like me write about organizations like Raise The Bar, I’d sort of lost track of the organization. I knew they were still out there, and thriving, but I didn’t know details.

So it was with a certain amount of pride – since I think I was one of the first journalists to write about Raise The Bar – that I got a note from the group’s executive director, Bennett A. Robinson, the other day. It seems that while most of the current 37 member-stores are located in California, Raise The Bar will now be open to grocers throughout the nine western states. And in addition to regular share group meetings and an online component, Raise The Bar also now is working with the folks at the Culinary Institute of America, the CIA, in Napa Valley, for continuing education classes that are being dubbed as Raise the Bar University.

As we’ve said endlessly, perhaps ad nauseum, in this space, compete is a verb. It’s good to see independent retailers who are taking this sentiment to heart, and doing new and interesting things.

They don’t just raise the bar for themselves. They raise it for everyone.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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