Natural Foods Merchandiser

Merchandising magic: how to stock supplements

What’s the most successful way to stock supplements? Is it best to organize them by blocking lines or through integration or by conditions? Briggs Saroch, who handles all distributor buying for Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market in Richmond, Va., is quite familiar with the question, since her store has attempted both methods of merchandising supplements, finally finding the sweet spot. To sell supplements, Saroch says there is only one way: through merchandising by structure-function. Here are her reasons why—as well as suggestions for how retailers can better stock supplements to make them sell.

  • There’s little brand loyalty in supplement sales.
    Saroch experienced this fact first-hand when Ellwood Thompson’s tried to sell supplements according to manufacturer—and sales struggled. She realized supplements weren’t analogous to body care, in which customers tend to stick with the same line for most of their products.

    Instead, she says, “You don’t often look in someone’s shopping cart and find eight or nine supplements from the same company.” That’s why her company switched to merchandising by structure-function—and sales improved significantly.

  • Don’t isolate local products.
    Saroch found that not even local supplement lines sold well when they were isolated from the overall mix, even though local selections often sell well in other parts of the store. “As soon as we integrated the local products with the other supplements, we started selling them,” she says.

  • Encourage consumer exploration.
    For Saroch, the success of merchandising by structure-function is a good thing. It shows that customers are willing to experiment in order to find just the right supplement regimen for them, instead of being tied to the most recognizable brands. She thinks retailers should help facilitate such exploration, since it will lead to more satisfied customers.

    “People are getting braver about trying different things with supplements,” she says. “It really is a process of self education on the part of the customer. The more the customer is willing to try new products, the better they will be in terms of maintaining their health.”

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