Independent, and especially natural retailers, are the lifeblood of the communities they service. Their importance cannot be overemphasized—but is frequently overlooked. With typically a strong commitment to the community, sustainability, local schools and causes, and educating their loyal customers about brands specifically designed to meet their needs, such retailers fill a void that larger retailers can't meet.
Larger natural and mainstream players typically cherry-pick the top-selling items to drive consumer traffic to their stores. Their reach and ability to invite consumers to try natural products is unparalleled. Most of them focus on converting consumers to their private-label products.
However, the small independent retailer has a unique opportunity: specialty items.
A healthy balance
Independent natural retailers serve as incubators for new products and innovation. They can also act as the "R&D departments" for new brands, helping manufacturers understand consumer needs. Most large natural brands can trace their roots back to an independent retailer with the courage to sample their items. For this reason, it is imperative that natural manufacturers pay homage to the retailers that took part in launching their brands, helping those retailers secure top-selling items in the marketplace and competing head-to-head with larger competitors.
Conversely, it is a huge mistake for independent natural retailers to turn their back on brands if and when they gain distribution at a competitor. Retailers sometimes forget that consumers perceive stores missing top-selling natural brands as having a poor selection.
Instead, aim to strike a healthy balance between popular natural brands and the unique items that differentiate you from the competition. Natural products stores should stock a good selection of the top-selling brands also carried by their competition along with the unique niche or specialty items their customer expects only them to carry. This way, new customers will find their favorite brands, existing customers will have a broader selection to choose from and the retailer can compete head-to-head with other retailers while still satisfying their core customer base.
Winning wallet share
The goal is to capture the largest consumer wallet share in your market and keep customers coming back. The "win-win" is to be viewed as a store with a good selection of popular top-selling brands, a friendly helpful staff and innovative products for which consumers are searching.
Once consumers know where to go, natural retailers can further maximize each and every selling opportunity and create a unique experience that turns occasional shoppers into committed customers. This can be accomplished by offering complementary items or "up-selling" in addition to filling all of their shopping needs. For example, creating incentives for customers to purchase dip with their chips, etc.
As the natural channel continues to nurture the healthy living movement, the opportunities are great for any company willing to invest in its future and take a leadership role in our industry. This means maximizing all of their available resources, owning every part of the sales process, maximizing their efforts at shelf, developing targeted marketing programs that drive customer traffic, and paying particular attention to their core consumer’s wants and needs.