As a new manager in my 20s, I found myself responsible for a dozen inside-sales staff and a half-dozen field salespeople at the natural products distributor Stow Mills, a predecessor company to United Natural Foods. While I had worked various jobs since age 16, this was my first time managing others. The wholesale business, much like retailing, moves rapidly. The pace set by daily operations—receiving products into the warehouse, order deadlines, picking, packing, delivering on-time, in-stock, and correctly to hundreds of stores every day—is like running an Olympic 10K race all day, every day.

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In this economy, small businesses must take advantage of every possible avenue at their disposal to thrive. This includes using tools like social media for everything from marketing to sales. While it seems like sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have been around forever, there are always new sites and ideas in the works. One relatively new site that businesses should pay attention to is Pinterest.

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One great strength you have as an independent natural products retailer is your broad selection of hard-to-find, high-quality products. But for first-time natural shoppers, this massive selection can be overwhelming.

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Research shows that 90% of businesses do not know what their customers want. In a world burdened with financial difficulties, American stores need to shape up. According to a four-year study conducted by the market intelligence firm, BIGresearch, most customers will put value and service ahead of price. That’s right. Even though your store may be just a tad more expensive than the one next door, if yours provides quality assistance for consumers, they will choose you over the lower-priced competition.

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Should your employees receive a discount for purchasing products from your store? In my view, there are several compelling reasons why you should consider it.

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As more and more baby boomers pass the 50th birthday landmark, this consumer-base deserves a second look. Baby boomers are reaching retirement age, which means they will have more time on their hands and more money to spend. In fact, according to www.businessweek.com, the current population between the ages of 60 and 70 has the annual spending power of about $1 trillion.

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April. Your taxes are done. Flu season’s over, and supplement sales are cooling down. Unless your store is located in a summer tourist area, you are facing relatively lower sales over the next few months. This might be a good time to take advantage of the lull and improve your merchandising plan.

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In a day and age where Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s commercials rule the air, one man strives to make a difference. Sid Lerner, famously known for his “Squeeze the Charmin” commercials, resurrected the idea of “Meatless Mondays.”

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How do you create an effective end cap? Here are a few tips.

1. An end cap is promotional, so you should refresh it at least once per month.
2. Pick your theme first, like “Heart Health Month” for February.
3. Use a visual design concept based on the theme, such as pink hearts, to increase “wow” factor.
4. Less is more. Select fewer products, and stock them deeper than usual.

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No one likes to be kept waiting, especially a customer. Checking-out is an experience just as important as a customer entering your store; you want to make great first and last impressions so your customers keep coming back.

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