The produce section can be a profitable department in any natural products business. While customers may come in to purchase supplements on a monthly basis, a well thought out produce department can keep them coming back multiple times throughout the week. In 2012, perishable goods averaged over $1.5 million of sales per natural products store, with over one-third from fresh produce alone (1). However, there are several key items to focus on to run a successful produce section.
For the third year in a row, I’ve been honored to assist in analyzing the data from WholeFoods Magazine’s Retailer Survey, which starts on page 20, and this year is outstanding! We’ve had the largest response in 35 years of doing the survey, and the quality of stores is truly remarkable. With nearly one million square feet and $665 million in sales represented, the survey offers a comprehensive view of our dynamic industry, from the smallest supplements store to the largest fresh-foods supermarket.
Color is more than a visual element; it’s also an important psychological motivator. “We react on multiple levels of association with colors—there are social or culture levels, as well as personal relationships with particular colors. You also have an innate reaction to color,” Leslie Harrington, executive director of The Color Association of the United States, told The Huffington Post in a November 27, 2011 article. “As you get older, you become much more conscious of those learned reactions than the innate ones.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.