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BOCA RATON, Fla.-If the grocery industry's Efficient Consumer Response effort is to work, some fine-tuning is needed.

That's according to executive comments and a series of preliminary reports released at last month's Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Executive Conference.

ECR is an industrywide effort by 11 trade groups to make the grocery supply chain more efficient. Manufacturers, brokers and distributors-including chains, wholesal-ers and independent retailers-are trying to reduce total system costs.

"ECR presents an even greater test for our unity and our ability to manage change," said Roger Stangeland, FMI chairman and chairman-ceo of Vons Cos. "Only through renewed willingness to cooperate and compromise can we bring the greatest benefits to the system."

Other people and reports agreed, saying the $30 billion overall savings envisioned by food retailers and analysts will be achieved only with "major organizational changes" and voluntary cooperation by rival companies.

The analyses concluded that the greatest opportunity to cut costs will come through efficiencies in assortment, promotion, replenishment and new-product introductions.

Some executives expressed concern about sharing data among manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, wrote Thomas Hoban, a researcher studying perceived barriers and opportunities based on interviews with 39 industry leaders.

Industry leaders will need to develop and implement educational programs and change management programs to help individual companies implement ECR and adjust to the changes, Mr. Hoban noted.

Recommendations included devising a road map to help companies chart their course with ECR, in addition to keeping communication within the industry constant.

Researchers also presented findings from a study on measured, or electronic, marketing conducted for the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council. The study examined the potential benefits of offering deeper discounts on select products to select customers. Among the findings:

EDLP retailers found offering discounts on certain products for select customers doesn't align with current marketing programs.

Many that had not implemented electronic marketing suffered customer defections, lower spending and less frequent visits than those that did have such programs.

Consumer concerns remain, including the "specter of Big Brother watching over citizens and knowing personal details of everyone's lives," said Brian Woolf, director of the study.

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