With 27 stores across the northwest and a business plan that projects the addition of four to six stores each year, Super Supplements in the Pacific Northwest must be doing something right. Driving the company’s success has been its focus on attracting and retaining baby boomer shoppers looking to support health and vitality with supplements, say Jim Sweeney, the chain’s president (left) and Al Briscoe, director of buying and merchandising (right). We spoke to Sweeney and Briscoe to learn more.
Natural Foods Merchandiser: What percentage of your shoppers are boomers?
Jim Sweeney: We don’t track our customers, but if I had to guess, I’d say that roughly 45 to 50 percent are those born after 1946. This demographic is absolutely critical for us. From the beginning we knew it would be. Back in 1994 when this business started, the owners realized that the aging population needed to be served. At the time, boomers were (and many still are) runners, yogis and bikers. Boomers were the generation to realize that supplements could help them continue to live active lives. Super Supplements wanted to serve those needs then and in the future. Well, the future is now. I happen to be a boomer, and today it’s all about living to be 90 years old and seeing our spouses, partners, friends and children live full lives in a quality way.
NFM: How do you attract and keep boomers in your store?
JS: First, we market to them. We make a very concerted effort to reach boomers using whatever media they’re consuming—newspapers, active lifestyle publications, etc. In the stores, we’re resetting, remodeling and developing a new store format. We’re incorporating lower shelving (to make things easier to reach), wider aisles, more lighting and easy-to-navigate structure/function sets. Obviously, the baby boomer is a huge reason for making these decisions.
NFM: What product categories do you focus on with this audience?
JS: We’ve expanded our antioxidant, hair, brain, nail and memory sets due to demand. But it’s really not just about selling supplements. It’s how you sell that’s important. There used to be a time when shoppers would just go in and buy stuff. Now all of us in the boomer group want the total shopping experience. How am I greeted? What products do you recommend to me? Are you easy to do business with? All of those things are important to us as a generation and need to be emphasized in the stores.
NFM: Is this how you compete with other supplement retailers?
JS: We realize that most of the products in our stores can be bought elsewhere—especially at discount online stores. So, yes, we really focus on customer service. We have dedicated salespeople on the floor to answer questions. We’re available to describe the differences between various brands, or just listen. We like to consider our level of service akin to what shoppers expect from high-end department stores. So far, it seems to be working.
Employees: About 400
Open since: 1994
750 South Michigan Street
Seattle, WA 98108