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Do natural products stores need to go warehouse?

A new study of more than 30 thousand consumers by the Consumer Reports National Research Center showed that shoppers like Costco--a lot. They like it more than Walmart, Kmart and 8 other national chains.

When praising Costco, respondents reported that they appreciated Costco’s low prices but also the quality of products. Yes, quality is on the American shopper’s radar; Costco was the only store judged much better than average for value.

"Costco surprises consumers with great products and brands at exceptional prices," says Will Ander in a release, senior partner in McMillan & Doolittle, a retail-consulting firm in Chicago. "They don't promise to have everything, but they do offer a true treasure hunt where everyone seems to find that exceptional item at an unbelievable price. Most customers will give you great satisfaction marks if you exceed their expectations, and Costco is light-years ahead of the other discount competitors in that respect."

Walmart, on the other hand, was the sole chain to receive below-average quality scores in more than half of the product categories, according to the report. Only about 10 percent of Walmart shoppers thought the store's children's clothing was excellent, for example.

So, I can’t help but wonder how a warehouse natural products store would fare. Trader Joe’s, Sunflower and Sprouts follow some of the Costco buying principles, but what if a grocery retailer took it to the next level and branded itself as a natural products discount warehouse store. In addition to food items bought in bulk and sold at discount, it would stock non-perishables such as organic linens, BPA-free plastic containers, organic flowers—whatever meets the store’s ‘natural’ standards and could be obtained for a low price.

As ‘quality’ grows to encompass things like organic, sustainable and taste, the next retail success might be one that takes these values and serves them up with a discount.

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