Retail Tomorrow, California

An In-Depth look at the current and future states of retail

Last week, the CGA Board and staff traversed the Bay Area, taking a deeper look at the supply chain, workforce, and companies on the vanguard of technology. The tour was part of the Association’s first Retail Tomorrow, California, event and quarterly board of directors meeting, and it brought attendees to the ground level of the macroeconomic issues facing our industry, as well as some of the possible solutions.

“Living in the past and the future at the same time” was how one panelist described the current state of the supply chain and labor pool, and nowhere was this more apparent than in the first leg of Retail Tomorrow. Attendees kicked off Wednesday morning with a tour of Plenty and the Port of Oakland. Plenty, a vertical farming operation, has developed a near-fully automated operation whereby high yields of leafy greens can be generated without soil or by-hand harvesting.

While Plenty offered one vision for the future of retail, attendees also received an on-the-ground picture of the current state of retail — specifically, the functions of the supply chain — when visiting the Port of Oakland. A mid-sized operation, the Port features no automation, and guest speakers shared that there is little productive difference in efficiency between its current workforce and an automated one.

After touring Plenty and the Port of Oakland, the Retail Tomorrow group explored PayPal Park, home of the San Jose Earthquakes soccer team. Oakland Athletics President, and former San Jose Earthquakes President, Dave Kaval led grocers and suppliers on an exploration of how professional sports teams work to engage their customers at the park. In a world powered by digital interactions, Kaval noted the franchise must work to draw fans to an in-person event while utilizing data and digital marketing savvy to keep their attention at games and after.

Following the Association’s Board of Directors meeting, the group visited Google’s new Bay View campus. There, hundreds of employees appeared to be truly flourishing, given plenty of space and modes to express themselves for the benefit of the business. Hearing from Google’s “Food for Good” founder, Emily Ma, you sensed the way Google employees combine the human touch with bleeding edge technology. In Ma’s case it took the form of dumpster diving at five a.m. to track food waste while using AI to detect and predict the growth of mold and defects in strawberries. CGA is extremely excited to begin collaborating with Google to increase equity and sustainability all while reducing food waste in the communities we serve.

If you’d like to learn more about Retail Tomorrow, California, enjoy this sneak peek from the event!