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IWA: Delivering Top-Shelf, Customized Cover for Grocers Market

Featuring Adam Weber, President of Irving Weber Associates, Inc.

Posted on 03 Mar 10

Last summer we featured storefront Irving Weber Associates (IWA) and its Fabricare program. Recently, we spoke again with Adam Weber, president of IWA, to find more about the fourth-generation insurance brokerage’s program in the Grocers market.

Established in 1946, IWA’s philosophy has always been to partner with carriers that specialize in segments that match up with what they are doing. Just as with the Fabricare program, IWA partnered with Argo Group US, a company that specializes in specific niches, to offer the Grocers program. “We entered into the grocery, supermarket and convenience store field several years ago when we partnered on this program with Argo Group,” says Adam. “We liked the way we did business together and it made sense for us to expand our reach and our offerings with Argo Group/ Grocers insurance program to the same network of brokers that we serve throughout the country for our Fabricare and Restaurant programs.”

Argo Select is the company within Argo Group US on the Grocers program, and IWA is marketing the program primarily in the New York and New England States where they recently won the endorsement of the Associated Grocers of New England Co-Op, as well as in New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. The Grocers program is available in other states through other avenues and offices to which IWA can connect agents.

The uniqueness of the program dates back to 1969 when it was first developed out of a relationship with a supermarket co-op and the subsequent creation of Grocers Insurance, which was later acquired by Argo Group. “When Argo Group acquired the insurer it was about the same time we were doing business with them on the Fabricare side,” explains Adam. “The extensive expertise and knowledge Argo Select has shared with us since that time is fascinating. We have come to understand how complex a grocer/ supermarket/convenience store can be, something many brokers don’t realize. The sector is made up of so many different types of operations – you have your standard supermarket box with cart aisles and then added to the mix you may have cooking and baking facilities, a restaurant, and various other possible exposures such as seafood, pharmacy, and liquor. You have many unique exposures folded into one. When you look at this, you truly understand the need for a specialist to manage it all, one who knows how to protect against all these exposures. This is exactly what the Grocers program is all about and what we have put together for agents and brokers. They have a source that really understands that box and how best to protect it.”

Another distinguishing factor in this market is the need for claims control expertise. There is significant Liability exposure due to foot traffic and a high target for fraud as well. “You have a situation where someone supposedly slipped and fell in the supermarket. You look at the video and see that the accident was staged. This happens so often that you become a specialist in preventing fraud and limiting exposure to stage incidents,” explains Adam. “You help the brokerage community and most importantly the policyholder in preventing fraud. Our program in conjunction with Argo Select is successful in closing 80% of Liability claims with no payment. This is a major benefit to the Grocers market…if these types of claims continuously occur, coverage will then be unavailable. Loss prevention becomes key, such as going through the aisles and recording every half hour, and having cameras that monitor activities.”

The ability to understand what needs to go in the footprint of a store and identify the correct coverage based on the exposures is also another benefit of IWA and its Grocers program. “Many operations are quite underinsured in the event of a substantial fire or some other type of catastrophic loss” says Adam. “Our knowledge and experience in looking at sales generated through the store, the square footage, and inventory based on the products sold to determine the appropriate coverage and limits is really a differentiating point as well. It all goes back to knowing the many different types of exposures that exist within those four walls.”

IWA has access to Argo Select’s engineering department, designed to assist the grocer in running a safe operation. The Argo staff has specialized in this for so long that their experience to get out there and help the owner and employees better understand how to do things differently sets the program apart. “For example, the Argo staff will explain how products in an aisle should be arranged, what products are best on which shelves -- not only from a merchandising standpoint but from an inventory stocking point of view,” explains Adam.

The Program’s Coverages

One of the major advantages from an agent’s viewpoint is that the Grocers Program is written on a BOP for small to medium stores and utilize a package policy approach for larger store formats. The coverage is broad and competitive. “Most companies don’t package the policy like we do for this market. You may have to buy separate policies for different exposures. Our program is packaged so that you can add on which helps to make us competitive,” says Adam.

The program covers all lines, including Property, Liability, Automobile, Workers Compensation, Boiler Machinery, and Crime. Additionally, Druggist Liability, and Liquor Liability will be added when these exposures exists.

Eligible classes include the independent grocery stores. “We are looking for grocers, supermarkets markets and/or convenience stores with a gas station attached to them. Those independent grocers who are most likely on the premises, aware of their operations whether they have multiple stores or not, and have ownership and long-term interest,” says Adam.

When discussing the economy and if it has had an impact on this sector, Adam explains that unlike the Restaurant industry which has been affected, sales are up in the Grocers sector. “People are eating more at home, they are buying more expensive items to entertain. The specialty grocers we insure with high-end produce and meat departments are doing extremely well. There is tremendous opportunities for brokers,” says Adam.

For more information about IWA’s Grocers Program, please call Anne Marie Castelli, Underwriting Staff Director, at 800.243.1811, ext. 8218 or email her at