The Role of Small Natural Retailers

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The importance of independent food retailers cannot be overemphasized, but they are frequently overlooked. Some larger retailers forget that they were once small independent retailers as well. 

Independent retailers, and especially those in the natural space, are the lifeblood of the communities they service. They typically have a strong commitment to the community, sustainability, local schools and causes, and educating their loyal customers about brands specifically designed to meet their needs. 

Independent natural retailers fill a void that larger retailers can’t meet. No one retailer can completely service every consumer’s needs. Specialization offers choices to a wide variety of shoppers. The small independent retailer might have unique specialty items while the larger mainstream retailer can support large families with tight budgets.

Independent natural retailers serve as incubators for new products and new innovation. They can also act as the “R&D departments” for new brands, helping manufacturers understand consumer needs. Most large natural brands can trace their roots back to an independent retailer with the courage to sample their items. For this reason it is imperative that natural manufacturers pay homage to the retailers that helped launch their brands. Helping the retailer secure top-selling items in the marketplace and helping the retailer compete head-to-head with their larger competitors can accomplish this.

Conversely, it is a huge mistake for independent natural retailers to turn their back on brands once they gain distribution at their competitor. Retailers sometimes forget that consumers perceive stores missing top-selling natural brands as having a poor selection. There needs to be a healthy balance between popular natural brands and the unique items that differentiate the retailer from the competition. The goal is to capture the largest share of wallet of consumers in your market and keep customers coming back. 

The “win-win” is to be viewed as a store with a good selection of popular top selling brands, a friendly helpful staff, and innovative products that consumers are searching for. 

Larger natural retailers and mainstream retailers typically cherry-pick the top-selling items to drive consumer traffic to their stores. Their reach and ability to invite consumers to try natural products is unparalleled. Most of them focus on converting consumers to their private label products. 

The opportunity for the natural retailers is to maximize each and every selling opportunity and to create a unique shopping experience that keeps customers coming back. This means turning occasional shoppers into committed loyal shoppers at your stores. 

The natural channel is the incubator for the healthy living movement. The opportunities are great for any company willing to invest in its future and willing to take a leadership role in our industry. This means maximizing all of their available resources, owning every part of the sales process, maximizing their efforts at shelf, developing targeted marketing programs that drive customer traffic, and paying particular attention to their core consumer’s wants and needs. 

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Mar 6, 2013

Dan makes some great points about the important role of the Independent Natural Retailer. I would add that consumer buying behavior is migrating to the web and it is important to be a multi-channel retailer to not lose the customer who prefer to shop online AND visit the store. Drop shipping is an inventory management technique used by about 33% of online retailers where the store does not invest in inventory, but can keep tens of thousands of natural products "in stock" and pay for items only as they are actually sold. And it works in store as well with an Associate and an iPad/tablet.

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