A recent trend popping up in health food is that of boxed snacks sent to customers’ doors on a monthly basis. Online-based snack companies are packaging dried fruits, seeds, nuts and other nutritious goodies and shipping them out to their customers each month. Some pre-made packages come in themes like “Healthy Holiday Habits” and “Around-the-World Snacks,” while other online companies let you hand-pick which snacks you want delivered.

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A few years ago, an independent natural products retailer with several stores got a new point-of-sale system. Because they had been ordering manually, going from store to store on different days of the week, the owners were very excited that they would be able to remotely track products and sales, and be able order from their central office, saving time and money.

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With so many different trends popping up in nutrition, it may be hard to discern which diet programs are just out for their 15 minutes of fame and which are here to stay. It’s safe to say that one diet plan, however, will not be going away any time soon; in fact, its followers argue that their diet has been successful for 2.6 million years!

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What distinguishes a natural products store from all other retailers? More than anything else, I believe we are aligned by a shared ingredient standard; we endeavor to offer only high-quality, clean ingredients. As a competitive difference in the marketplace, this standard, above all else, distinguishes “natural” stores from all other stores.

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Sharing a combined 100 years of professional experience, an Expo East panel of retailers shared ideas on how independent natural products retailers can continue to compete successfully not only with other independents, but also with Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, conventional supermarkets, Wal-Mart and other big-box stores, and even Internet suppliers like Amazon.com.

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retailer competition

Sharing a combined 100 years of professional experience, a Expo East panel of retailers shared ideas on how independent natural products retailers can continue to compete successfully not only with other independents, but also with Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, conventional supermarkets, Wal-Mart and other big-box stores, and even Internet suppliers like Amazon.com.

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I once had a wart on my finger, and a good natural products retailer friend of mine suggested liquid selenium, which cleared it up within days. My business has warts, too. My desk can be messy, I am behind on my reading and there are many more opportunities to take advantage of than time or resources allow, to name just a few.

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Running a successful retail outlet involves more than just carrying the right merchandise; you need to create a calm and inviting atmosphere for consumers. There’s nothing worse than overwhelming a potential customer with the layout of your store. That’s why many retail outlets are turning to feng shui.

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In my July 2013 Merchandising Insights column, I outlined a strategy to help independent natural products retailers create more competitive retail pricing while preserving healthy profit margins. The strategy rests on identifying vendors—usually direct vitamin lines—that offer ongoing wholesale purchase discounts. Several of you subsequently contacted me to discuss pricing, which leads me to provide a few additional thoughts here.

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The technological strides we’ve made as a society are incredible when you think about it. The plethora of communication and information tools we have at our fingertips is mind-boggling. The lion’s share of these advances has impacted our lives for the better. However, there is one group that is dealing with some blowback—brick and mortar shops.

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