In 1980, you couldn’t find yogurt in a supermarket. By the early 1990s, Peter Roy and John Mackey of Austin, TX-based Whole Foods Markets were “rolling up” the largest independent natural products retailers around the U.S. to form the first national chain of “supernatural” supermarkets. By the 2000s, every conventional supermarket of any size was carrying not only yogurt, but also all natural foods categories and capturing significant natural market share.

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Washington, D.C., 10:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Late in the evening on Tuesday, May 22, 2012, the advocacy team of the Washington, D.C.-based Natural Products Association (NPA) became aware that longtime natural products industry opponent, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), planned to introduce an amendment that could severely damage the natural products industry—as an attachment to an FDA user-fee bill shortly being considered by the Senate.

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Recently, several natural products retailers have asked me about discounting in the form of “rewards” or “loyalty” programs. Because most natural products retail stores operate on thin net profit margins—usually 4–6% before paying taxes—discounting in any form can badly damage your profits and, at worst, may be devastating to your entire business.

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Giving seminars around the country, I ask natural products retailers to tell me why they think it is important to tell the story of their store. “Because we care,” says one. “Because we’re knowledgeable,” answers another. “Because we help,” offers yet a third. All true. But the most important reason in my view is, if you don’t tell the story of your store—what you do, and why and how you do it—the world will gladly fill in the vacuum left by your silence.

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Flash quiz: If someone walks into your store and says, “My knees hurt. I think I have arthritis.” And you say, “Come over here. We have some glucosamine and chondroitin that may be helpful for you.” Are you acting within the boundaries of DSHEA?

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Ever notice how a particular task can be tiring, but the minute you switch to something else, you’re full of energy? Where did your fatigue go? Our minds have surprising power to quickly change our intensity levels and emotions. In retailing, when Labor Day arrives, if you’ve been away on vacation, it’s really tough to immediately click back into work mode. And, if you haven’t had a vacation, it’s doubly hard to stay in the groove when everyone else around you is rested and refreshed. What can you do? Change helps wake up our spirits. Here are a few ideas to help you re-energize your store and yourself in the process.

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If you are an independent natural products retailer with a brick-and-mortar store, you may be feeling a bit perplexed about how to move your business forward. In today’s marketplace, several forces at once are bearing down on independents as never before.

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 Should you be worried that Walmart will capture more natural products market share?

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In 1977, at age 24, I had the good fortune to become sales manager of a fledgling natural foods distributor in the Northeast. Over the next 20 years, we grew the business from $900,000 to $225 million, when we merged Stow Mills with United Natural Foods.

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Before the baby boom generation (1946–64), when most work was physical and lifespan shorter, society didn’t consider the concept of optimal health. Securing food, shelter and safety took up most of our waking energy. The mass-agriculture and industrialization triggered by World War II gave Americans the ability to consistently meet and afford these basic human needs for the first time.

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