As the WholeFoods Magazine team has done for the past 46 years, we once again conducted our annual retailer survey, shining a light on the state of business for independent retailers. This year’s survey shows pain points, and we want to give retailers the platform to shout out those concerns in the hope that all members of the natural products community will listen and engage. Independent retailers were key champions of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), and the frontline workers who supported their local communities through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Independent natural products retailers paved the way long before mass marketers realized they could make a pretty penny off of natural products, long before internet sales, long before the internet itself. Today, many feel mounting pressure, even when the bottom line is healthy. We invited them to sound off. In their own words, they outline challenges. 

1) Supply Chain & Inventory Challenges 

“Distribution companies are raising their minimums and not delivering to our store (they deliver to other businesses half a mile away from our location) regularly with no real reason. Often products are out of stock, discontinued, or we are distributed to last and lucky if we get half of our order. Customers don't understand that the companies set the sale price and that we can go higher than that number but not lower. On the other hand, we have products on the shelf, we have been able to pay and retain all of our employees and we are still open. We still have hopes of one day expanding and making our wage a livable wage.” 

“Supply issues are very challenging. Customers have been waiting months for products. My fear is they will find them elsewhere and I will lose them for life.”

“Business is terrible. The supply chain is not good. Prices are out of hand. After 27 years, this economy is taking my business under water.” 

“I am finding it difficult to guess how sales will pattern due to the pandemic, 'viral' trends on TikTok and Instagram, out of stocks, and climate change making running errands unpalatable for basically everyone. We are doing okay, but as a brick and mortar in a small town, it is on my mind a lot.” 

2) Online Competition 

“The biggest thing on my mind is keeping up with the inventory challenges we are all facing, especially in this new retail environment when every sale lost can easily become a customer lost (to the internet).” 

“Online shopping has drastically cut our retail sales in our store as well as all of the area grocery stores carrying the same products we carry. I wish I could pay my employees more (as well as myself) but it is not now possible. I am approaching retirement and I'm not sure anyone would want to step up to take over the store with the current income it's generating.” 

3) Staffing Concerns 

“The most difficult aspect to our business is finding, hiring and retaining good employees.” 

“I'm finding it challenging to hire and keep employees. Despite higher wages and flexible hours, like many of my colleagues in other small businesses—from food service, retail clothing and other retail outlets—finding committed people wanting to work, motivated to work, is very difficult.” 

Bright Spots and Hope for the Future 

“We are in interesting times!! Covid tested us and we are now very creatively bouncing back from all of its effects and that is a process. We are optimistic that it will all somehow make us stronger and leaner.” 

“Business is in an upward trend despite all of the supply challenges. People are wanting to take their health into their own hands more now.” 

“We have over doubled our sales in the last 5 years. The move of remote workers to our area has decreased in the last year but continues.” 

Find more industry insights in the Retailer Survey and Retail Universe. We’d love to hear from you, too! Tell us anything that is on your mind about your business at