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4 ways to go local at your store

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, then, why not copy Whole Foods Market's excellent idea to hold a "Meet and Greet" with local vendors? It's an opportunity for regional producers to show off their products to grocery buyers, as well as get free training on distribution tactics. Replicating this event at your store not only will help boost your business community, but it's a great way to learn about local goods your customers want to see on your store shelves, which, ultimately, will increase your bottom line.

Building on this theme, here are three more local-minded examples worth mimicking:

Host a farmers' market. Although farmers' markets could be viewed as competition for grocery stores, a retailer-sponsored farmers' market could increase store sales, especially if customers come into your retail outlet to pay and while there buy other products. This strategy has worked for Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Markets, which lures locavores to its flagship shop with a Sunday farmers’ market held in the store's parking lot. The farmers' market is now the third busiest in Louisville.

Grow your own. Sunflower Farmers Market started an organic farm in Longmont, Colo., and in its first year of operation supplied all four Colorado stores with roughly 1 percent to 2 percent of produce sales. That's not a whole lot, but the real point is customer education: Farmer-led tours educate customers on how an organic farm operates, increasing shoppers' enthusiasm for these organic eats.

Go on a tour. Rather than inviting local vendors to you for a "meet and greet," you can go to them. On their days off, Eric and Sandie Becker, co-owners of Niles Gourmet Country Market and Bistro in Niles, NY, take their SUV on a tour of the rolling hills of central New York, collecting organic produce, pasture-fed meat, honey, wine and soap from area farmers and artisans. The goods stock the small store within their gourmet bistro. Look for NFM's profile of Niles Gourmet in the June 2011 issue.

How else do you attract local products to your store? Sound off below.


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