Why should I join NPA East?  It’s a question we get regularly from prospective members.  We sometimes get a similar question from current members: Why should I renew my membership in NPA East? For what amounts to about $2.00 a week, it should be an easy decision. But it’s not. Why?

Because for most independent retailers who work seven days a week fighting for customers against competition that’s often larger and better funded, every dollar spent and every minute of the day consumed is critical.  At NPA East, we never lose sight of the challenges our members face every day.  That’s why we try to work just as hard as they do to provide them with meaningful benefits that help them compete on a level playing field. 

Every Member Benefit Must Have Value

As a regional association, our resources are limited.  So before we spend our members' dues dollars, each product and service has to pass this test:  Does it have value for our members?  Often, we survey our members before we commit resources to a project. In almost every case, if they don’t want it—even if we think they should—we kill the project. 

What Are the Benefits of Membership in NPA East?

NPA East membership extends from Maine through Virginia and also includes Washington, D/C/.  Our members receive the NPA East Newsletter, access to our comprehensive new website, a credit card processing program designed specifically for independent retailers, networking opportunities with fellow retailers,  and most valuable and perhaps most underappreciated: Advocacy at the local level.

npa eastAdvocacy: Critically Important, Hard to Quantify

NPA East is the only association in our region that fights 24/7 to protect retailers and the businesses that support them from legislation that could literally force them to shut their doors.  More than any of the other NPA regions, ours is the most involved in advocacy issues on an almost daily basis. It’s mostly about geography.  In the past nine years, the most proposed legislation aimed directly at our industry has come from New York, one of the 11 states in our region.  In the course of any year, the legislature in Albany proposes bills that would create the equivalent of a state-run regulatory agency with powers to regulate sales of dietary supplements and foods; require certification from New York State to sell and recommend dietary supplements to consumers; and a third bill that would require all dietary supplements sold in New York State to contain a label that notifies consumers that these supplements are not approved or tested by the FDA.  Through a number of visits to our contacts in Albany, NPA East was able to stop all three bills from becoming law.  This is just one state in one year, and these bills often get resurrected during the next session of the legislature.

A Victim of Our Own Success?

NPA East has an impressive track record of killing proposed bills long before they become law, and we communicate these successes to our members and other retailers in our region.  But it’s a difficult concept when the outcome is positive for our members. The danger comes when a major grassroots action is needed to kill a bill and the membership doesn’t respond. The bill can slip through and the damage is severe and not easily reversible.  Although it is frustrating that not all of the retailers in our region understand the value of our advocacy efforts, we plan to keep doing what we’re doing and aiming for the same level of success.  That’s our mission.

expo eastOur Special Relationship with Expo East

For more than 10 years, NPA East has maintained a close relationship with the staff of New Hope Natural Media who are responsible for producing Expo East.  As the largest industry event in the east, we are proud to be part of the show and the positive experience it offers our members.  The educational component is one of the best and most comprehensive available to retailers and suppliers.  Through our unique relationship with Expo East, we are able to offer our members special discounts that are often equivalent to annual dues in NPA East.  This year, NPA East Members are being offered a COMPLIMENTARY Super Pass to the show, which saves them $95.00.

NPA East has been protecting and promoting the interests of independent retailers and the businesses that support them for nearly 40 years.  We plan to keep fighting for the rights of our members for at least another 40. WF

Stephen Distefano is the president of NPA East and co-owner of Strictly Gluten Free in East Northport, NY.

Posted on WholeFoods Magazine, 6/26/15