Natural Foods Merchandiser

7 traits of the perfect natural foods store

What does “optimal” look like for natural foods stores, and what is the right mix of tools and strategies that allow you to be a high-performing retailer? Seven experts tackled that topic during the Saturday afternoon session “Retailer Tool Box.” Their suggestions included:

Andrew Morse extoils the virtues of knowing your budget.

1. Know your mission. Define exactly why you chose to be in this business.

2. Provide a great shopping experience. Joe Sosebee, retail services manager at Tree of Life, detailed key concepts:

  • Cleanliness. Don’t forget the outside of your store, including your parking lot, sidewalk, windows and doors.

  • Color. Trends change about every five years—the most popular store color right now is gold.

  • Lighting. LED fluorescent bulbs down the centers of aisles use less energy and bring out the true colors in products.

  • Music. Match your customers’ age range and tastes. Upbeat music encourages more sales.

  • Signage. Tie-in display signs (for instance, Super Bowl chips and dip) increase sales 150 percent.

  • Endcaps. Change them a minimum of once a month. The first week of a display produces the highest sales; in the second week sales drop 47 percent and by the third week they’re down 74 percent.

  • Case stacks. 15 cases equal 250 percent better sales; 30 cases equal 330 percent better sales; and with 50 cases sales increase 500 percent. You don’t actually have to have 50 cases of product—you can put empty cases in the center of the display.

  • Merchandising. Ensure correct spacing by leaving a two-finger-width gap between the top of the product and the shelf above.

3. Know your customers. The average retailer loses 25 percent of their customers each year, said David Williams, vice president of retail sales for Living Naturally. “We have funny nicknames for our customers like ‘crazy screaming kid lady,’ but do we really know them? Why are they only asset we don’t track?” Rather than keeping a mailing list, Williams suggests a customer database that tracks when customers come in and what they spend. That way you can reward your best customers, deliver targeted promotions and bring them back when they stop shopping at your store. To accomplish this without asking your customers invasive info like their address and phone number, implement a loyalty program where shoppers scan their card when they come through and get rewards in return—“give them a reason to let you track them,” Williams said.

4. Commit to education. This includes not only communicating with your employees, but also your customers.

5. Know your profitability. Set a budget every year and stick with it, shop your competition’s prices and don’t confuse profits with margin.

6. Communicate your brand. This includes your logo, store appearance, quality of products and service, and your customers’ and employees’ perceptions of your store.

7. Leverage technology and supplier resources. Your suppliers have a vested interest in your financial success, so make sure you’re using every tool they offer.

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