As the natural products retail space continues to grow and diverge, independent retailers must be innovative in every aspect of running their business to survive. Experts agree though, that the opportunities for success are there.
Sales predictions for this year and beyond "look great," says Corinne Shindelar, CEO of the Minneapolis-based Independent Natural Food Retailers Association. "It will still be challenging in some areas, specifically in keeping up with health care costs and increased fuel surcharges. And rising food costs will challenge some consumers to remain true to organic."
Yet she notes that sales of Non-GMO-verified products are growing at a clip of more than 25 percent. "To me, that says consumers want to know what's in their food," Shindelar says. "As consumers' food dollars remain stretched, they will spend more time making choices." (For more on the market for non-GMO certifications, see page 16.)
Bottom line, "it's a great time for us to continue what we already do well as independents: Be transparent with your consumer about the true cost of food, and educate, educate, educate," Shindelar says.
Like many years past though, despite infestation, wars, typhoons or financial collapse, natural retailers are bullish on growth. 10 percent of respondents indicated they planned to open a new store in 2011," said Patrick Rea, Publisher of Nutrition Business Journal.
Jane Hoback is a writer and editor in Denver and a frequent NFM contributor.