Photo: Cubby’s Marketplace, Talkeetna AK/Facebook

Operating independent grocery stores has never been for those who shrink from formidable odds. When it comes to today’s independents, that means going up against chain store giants such as Walmart and Kroger while dealing with changes in technology and consumer shopping behavior, not to mention deflation in key product categories and increased competition for labor and the associated costs that go with it.

According to the “Independent Grocers Financial Survey,” recently released by the National Grocers Association (NGA) and FMS Solutions (FMS), 2016 was a challenging year for the small guy.

Sales were down 1.62 percent in 2016 from 2015. Food deflation affected grocers in key categories, including dairy and meat, which hit independents squarely in the bottom line as net profits fell to 0.98 percent compared to 1.44 percent in 2015.

The survey of more than 100 grocers operating stores in 33 states found that independents managed to hold the line…