The Texas Retailers Association (TRA) hosted its first Independent Retail Business Breakfast for Bryan-College Station store managers and owners Nov. 2 at Texas A&M University’s Startup Aggieland.

As the “voice of retail in Texas,” the organization is led by George Kelemen, president and CEO, who spent 11 years in Washington, D.C., and most recently served as the senior vice president of government and political affairs at Airports Council International.

The state-level lobbying and advocacy group who represents more than 90 percent of the grocery space in Texas, including chains, independent and middle sized grocers, also works closely with sole-proprietor boutiques, bookstores, discount chains and other firms.

According to Kelli Hollinger, director of Mays Business School’s Center for Retailing Studies, “the center was encouraged to serve the local community through outreach.”

“Bringing the Texas Retailers Association to Aggieland was one way we could accomplish this,” Hollinger said.

State Rep. John Raney, who owns Texas Aggieland Bookstore in College Station, shared the importance of being informed about the legislative landscape.

“Without business owners advocating for their needs, no one will,” said Raney.

Raney, who joined the organization more than 30 years ago, partially credits his 2011 successful election to the Texas Retailers Association.

“If a retailer comes and knocks on my door, I’m going to listen … think about what [our industry] could do if retailers push their agenda,” said Raney.

Jim Sheer, vice president of government and regulatory affairs, concurred, adding “Elected officials would rather hear from constituents then representatives of constituents.”

The TRA and the Center for Retailing Studies share many of the same corporate partners, including Academy Sports + Outdoors, Stage Stores and Walmart. But, as Hollinger noted, “This event is an opportunity for CRS to build relationships and serve the needs of independent retail operators and local entrepreneurs.”

Additionally, the TRA provides training to small business owners who are looking to improve their operations.

In anticipation for Small Business Saturday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, some of the biggest shopping days of the year, Louie Carr, social media marketing director at Austin-based BMused Imaging, shared some best practice tips that included:

  • First online impressions are a must.
  • More than 90 percent of people will see a website on their phones or tablets.
  • Websites must be responsive and mobile emphasized.
  • Video/visual content is key; text is becoming white noise.

According to Carr, independent retailers can now “be on the same playing field as [major retailers] because digital outreach is a fraction of what it used to cost.”