Before a new competitor comes to town, you can fix the weak spots in your store. Is your facility clean and well-lit? Are your floor and ceiling in good condition and your walls freshly painted? Do your refrigerators and freezers work properly? Have you changed your window displays recently? These physical features will stand out as your customers compare you to the new competition.

On pricing, it is usually a mistake to install an across-the-board discount, but it is a good idea to offer monthly promotions. This means passing along the discounts you get from your suppliers each month on your fastest-selling items. These include everyday items such as milk, eggs, yogurt, bananas and vitamin C, for example. Don’t worry about discounting wasabi mustard, gluten-free pancake mix or other more specialized items.

But your most important weak spot may be something your customers can’t see: your reason for being in business. If you are truly committed to helping your customers be well, you will likely have an advantage over your new competitor who offers more products and a great place to shop, but whose people are not empowered to help. More on this next time.WF Jay Jacobowitz, who also writes WholeFoods’ Merchandising Insights column, is the president of Retail Insights, a Brattleboro, VT-based consulting service. A frequent speaker at industry events, Jay is next speaking about “How Independent Retailers Can Choose The Right Business Model In a Competitive World” at MAHO in St. Charles, IL, September 19–21. He also will be available at Booth 331. Jay will speak next at the Healthy Harvest Show in Long Beach, CA, September 27–28 (Seminar, TBA; Booth 424). To contact Jay, telephone (800) 328-0855 or e-mail

Published inWholeFoods Magazine, August 2008