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NGA talks data breaches at annual conference

Annual gathering was largest in NGA history, featuring 3,800 retailers

Speakers in several sessions at this year’s National Grocers Association Show in Las Vegas took a new approach in trying to convince attendees to appreciate the potential impact of cyber-attacks – they scared them.

The number of cyber attacks is increasing and they are affecting businesses in harmful ways. In retail, they have quadrupled during the last 10 years, according to one panelist. If that’s not bad enough, the impact of each attack is growing exponentially said another panelists.

Ray Sprinkle, president and CEO of URM Stores, a wholesaler and retailer with operations in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, presented a case study on the impact of his company’s large-scale data breach in the fall of 2013, which resulted in the theft of magnetic stripe track data from payment cards. Washington state credit unions alone reported total losses of nearly U.S. $700,000 as a result of this breach

“I didn’t find out about the data breach until the FBI contacted me and said there was a problem. It felt like someone punched me in the gut and when I was hunched over hit me in the back of the head with a two-by-four,” he explained, adding that URM was lucky to have a skilled team with a good process to address the breach. He warned the crowd “this is a journey that never ends. You always need to be vigilant.”

During a session titled Cyber Security: Incident Preparedness Techniques, a group of retailers and vendors said that most cyber security experts agree, it's not a question of “if” but “when” there will be a data breach. The group presented several steps companies can take to minimize the impact of a breach, including implementing systems to detect attacks and intrusions early, and having a comprehensive plan to help walk the team through the response.

The annual gathering was the largest in NGA history, with more than 3,800 retailers, wholesalers and industry partners in attendance. It featured more than 40 sessions covering marketing and merchandising, finance, store operations, store leadership, compliance/game changers, technology/digital marketing and fresh foods.

On the exhibit floor, dozens of companies were hawking the very latest shopper engagement technology covering everything from loyalty to cause marketing. One new exhibitor, Engage3, showcased web-based system that builds shopping lists from everyday browsing activities like reading recipes.

Other highlights of the NGA event included the 29th annual Best Bagger Championship, which is the culminating event of a year-long nationwide contest. This year, 25 of the top grocery baggers, including one from Canada, competed for the national Best Bagger title. David Tochinskiy of Rosauers Supermarket in Spokane, Wash. won the title and was awarded a $10,000 grand prize and the coveted "Golden Grocery Bag" trophy.

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