Natural Foods Merchandiser

Retail Health and Beauty like an expert

Get three veteran naturals experts in a room, and you might get three different opinions about how to turn the most product in your Health and Beauty section. Speakers included Jay Jacobowitz, president of Retail Insights, a natural products industry consultant firm in Brattleboro, Vt.; Debra Stark, owner of Debra’s Natural Gourmet, a natural food store in Concord, Mass.; and Michael Hoffman, who has built brands such as Jason, Avalon, Nature’s Gate and Collective Wellbeing, and is a consultant for NOW.

One thing is unarguable: Your store should be turning 12 times per year—that means your total inventory should turnover once a month. Personal care is a little bit slower—nine times—because customers don’t buy toothpaste every month. (The average consumer buys just one bottle of sunblock per season, says Hoffman.) Hoffman also pointed out that the category is growing at a rate of 17.5 percent per year, but in the store, it may account for only 6.5 percent of sales.

Here’s the prevailing wisdom on how to up those HABA rings.

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate:
    Education of your staff and consumer base is critical. The goal: to establish trust that you are the most reliable source of information and product. Make sure that your staff knows the benefits of the products you carry, why you carry them as opposed to others and why they work. New staff should test product for themselves so that they can knowledgeably steer customers to certain products. And don’t forget that staff should understand the issues and be able to answer questions about ingredients (parabens, phthalates, lead) customers may ask about. Only one audience member raised his hand when asked if the group had done consumer education within the past 6 months. “The consumer doesn’t read as much as you think, but they’ll have a one-on-one with you,” says Jacobowitz.
    In practice: When the information about 1,4-dioxane hit, Debra’s store wrote articles about the additive, called all of its PC manufacturers and educated consumers about the issue. She has noticed an uptick in customers who consider her store a trusted resource since. Hoffman holds educational seminars in stores around the country and noted that the average attendance at 7p.m. is 50 people. That’s a lot of potential customers!
  2. Engage in conversation:
    Get out from behind the counter and talk to your customers.
    In practice: Debra’s store focuses on solutions to conditions. When a customer enters the store wondering how to treat specific symptoms, employees literally walk that person through the store—crossing through the departments to find the best solution to that customer’s problem. For the top conditions—toenail fungus, lice, dry eyes, eczema and psoriasis—staffers write articles to give as takeaways.
  3. Sell aggressively:
    Challenge consumers in a soft way by engaging them in dialogue. Ask customers entering the store what kind of shampoo they use and educate them on better options. Ask if they’ve seen your newest shampoo product. Put it in their hands and take two steps back. That way, the customer doesn’t feel threatened. This is a good way to promote new products on your shelves, but remember that every item in your store is new to the shopper—even if it’s not new to you. Remember that signing products that are staff favorites actually works.
  4. Place Health and Beauty care on the right hand side of your store:
    According to Jacobowitz, most shoppers are right handed and are almost guaranteed to walk your store counter clockwise. Although you may be inclined (as most retailers are) to make your grocery section front and center, make finding PC products easy for customers. As Hoffman says, “People will find bananas and oranges if they’re in the back, but they won’t find the shampoo if it’s in the back.” To wit, only three or four audience members raised their hands when asked if they merchandise product on the right-hand side of their stores.
  5. Get the most from your manufacturers:
    Engage them in conversation directly. Learn about their products, use their shelf talkers, ask them how to market them more effectively. When a manufacturer visits your store, add them to your enewsletter list.
  6. Discontinue your dogs:
    Give new products a 90-day trial run to see if they catch on with your customers. During that time, do all you can to promote them with demos, specials, end-cap merchandising, etc. If customers don’t take to the products, discontinue them. Similarly, discontinue items as quickly as you introduce them. Remember that retailing is about velocity. Jacobowitz points out that retailers often fall in love with certain products, even if they’re not selling and that PC sections tend to become bloated with product. Don’t ever have more than two facing products on shelf at any time, don’t have less than one lingering product—people won’t buy onsies if they feel that it’s been sitting there, unused, forever—and don’t keep excess product in the back room.
  7. Organize your sections for customer convenience:
    You’ll want to send customers to the shampoo section. Customers can get overwhelmed when product is organized by brand. Hoffman advises trying to sell products in groups (think cleanser, toner, moisturizer; shampoo, conditioner; etc.).
  8. Set up a special space for PC:
    You’ll be amazed at how a mirror and a small piece of carpet in your store will move makeup.
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