It’s that time again to be thinking about this year’s Natural Products Expo West. What are your strategies to maximize your time at Expo? How do you plan to capture the attention of customers in your market?

Before you start mapping out your plan for Expo, walk your store, take a good hard look at all the different brands on your shelves and think about where the gaps are. Take a look at your sales data. Where are the categories that are up or down, and what are the categories that need help? Think about the consumers that shop those categories specifically, and then think about the brands that might address their needs. Also think about the potential new customers that you’re trying to drive into your stores. Which brands might help you get more of those customers into your store? Think about those brands that are going to give you a significant competitive advantage in your market.

Remember the three things every retailer wants:
  • More traffic in their stores.
  • A reasonable profit in the category.
  • A significant competitive advantage.
Think about addressing those three points as you walk the show floor. As you’re talking to exhibitors, think about creative ways a brand might be able to partner with you to help drive traffic into your store. Also, consider what the brand’s presence is beyond traditional retail. If you can tap into their audience and then drive them into your store, that’s a win-win for both you and the brand.

Most of your retail competitors will not use this strategy. Use this unique opportunity to develop strategic relationships with key brands. Get to know more about the brand’s founder, their mission, the origin of the brand, the problem they solve and their unique value proposition. Then leverage it all in your marketing strategy. Develop a collaborative partnership so you can be the first to merchandise their new items—the items your customers want.

Remember, every retailer is fighting for the same customer. Customers today have unlimited choices as to where they shop, what products they buy, and where they spend their hard-earned money. Think about anything that you can do to stand out in your crowded market and help those customers understand why the product assortment at your store is better.

This is something your competitors are overlooking or not doing—especially big retailers. If you can adopt a new product and get it on your shelf right away, that’s going to be a huge win for you. For example, you could potentially put an innovative plant-based product on your store shelf within a couple of weeks, while it may take months for the big retailer. This is your opportunity to capture those sales, stand out in the crowded market, and defend against mass-slippage. (For an at-a-glance guide to Expo West, including exhibit hours and a sampling of education sessions and events,go here.)