Recently, the Brookings Institute released a report about demographic shifts from the latest U.S. Census. Being a natural products industry veteran, former retailer and a strategy and marketing college professor, I immediately looked to see how changes in the market should affect retail messaging and operations.
Here are three trends that I found to be most relevant to natural products retail, along with my comments about how to apply them to your store.
People are relocating less.
Through the mid '90s, at least 15 percent of American households moved every year. That number is now much closer to 11 percent and has been dropping for several years.
What does that mean for a retailer? You have fewer new people in your community, which should shift your marketing. Instead of emphasizing who you are to newcomers, give reasons for current shoppers to return.
This presents a challenge for stores that are poorly run. If you have poor service, a higher percent of those in your community will know about it. Fortunately, the same holds true if you have great service.
The non-white population is increasing.
In the 2000s, 92 percent of U.S. population growth occurred in non-white homes, with the majority in Hispanic and Asian homes. With this trend as strong as it is—50 percent of infants under the age of one are non-white—here's what you should pay attention to.
One of the great gateways into shopping for natural products is having children. I see it time and time again—both statistically and personally. When a mom has a baby, she wants to get away from chemicals and processed foods and raise that child with things that are healthy, wholesome and natural.
In your marketing, are you using artwork to show all ethnic groups in your community that they are welcome in your store? If all of the images you use are of blond-haired, blue-eyed people, you may be sending a signal that those are the only customers that you are seeking.
And in your merchandising, do you carry a wide variety of cuisine? Are you offering products that appeal to a traditional Asian or Hispanic diet? If not, you should.
Median household income has decreased 9 percent since 2000.
That's a pretty sizeable decrease and it is widespread. Even though 91 of the 100 largest metro areas in the country had a decrease in median income, much of the problem was felt in suburban areas, where poverty increased more than 50 percent.
A natural foods retailer cannot win a price war. Our industry—and, I would venture to guess, your finances—are not structured to support you being a low price leader. Many national grocery chains, with high sales volumes and low operating costs, are finding that being a low price outlet is a dangerous place to be.
Your message should be one of value: Eating wholesome food prepared at home is much less expensive than eating processed food purchased out, and is a great investment in your health. The development of good eating habits, with proper supplementation, can be a great way to maintain health to avoid the financial difficulties that come with illness.
I would love to hear how you are responding to these and other changes in your community. Share in the comments below.