By James Wells

WHISTLER, CANADA: Narta general manager, Michael Jackson, has revealed the major challenges facing the 43 year-old buying group and the key strategies it is implementing as it prepares its business beyond 2009.

To begin his presentation, Jackson quickly referred to the group’s 10th consecutive year of out performing the industry in 2008 which took the business to 25.9 per cent overall market share, before highlighting the group’s major challenges.

“I stand here representing Narta, not telling you how good we were but to stand here and acknowledge that we also need to implement change, to ensure we continue to provide value to both our suppliers and members — 43 years on and Narta still is a buying group.

“Our core function remains providing additional profitability to members, which they could not achieve in their own right whilst adding value to the supplier.

“Our challenge is to harness the strength of our 30 members and our order book that exceeds $2.5 billion with the agility of a single retailer.

“In terms of relevance, to remain effective and efficient not just in 2009 but beyond, we must converge our industries — not just in product. To continue and further deliver on this we have and are making changes using technology to change the rules.

“The four key strategies we are focusing on are: ‘improved profitability’ for both retailer and supplier, ‘better cash flow’, ‘stronger disciplines’ and ‘supply chain management’.

Some of these strategies have been implemented by Narta and others continue to evolve.

“The exciting thing is your feedback over the past couple of days has demonstrated that there are a number of different strategies and actions you are looking to implement to improve from where you are currently — changing the way you think. Things relating to ‘new business’, ‘life rules’, ‘branding’, ‘de-commoditising’, ‘new media’ and ‘balance’.

“This conference has inspired us all to look forward, be positive about the road ahead, build on our strengths, and create new opportunities and as [previous speaker] Dan Burrus said: ‘Manage it down and you will go down’.

“This year, we have heard from speakers who have provided the vision to allow us all to complete our puzzle, to take key elements away to challenge ourselves, to change the way we do things both as individuals, and as an industry,” Jackson said.