By Mark Hickey, publisher, Natural Foods Merchandiser-
Like the Electric Kool Aid Acid Trip (thank you Ken Kesey)….you are either on the bus or off the bus. I was decidedly on the bus with a busload of retailers and a three store tour (no SS Minnow involved).
The Retail Store Tour is an Expo tradition of gracious sharing and hosting by local retailers who share their aisles, experience and insight with other retailers eager to not just hear how it’s done but actually see it in living color. Expanding gluten free sections, cool deli operations and increasingly important private label sales were all evidently on retailers’ minds and questions.
Our Boston area hosts Cambridge Naturals, Natural Food Exchange and Debra’s Natural Gourmet provided answers, guidance and best practices example as retailers asked questions, took photos and filled notebooks with product or operational ideas. The well-trained staffs at all three stores offered deeper knowledge and take-aways about specific category or product sections.
My take-away: If you’re a manufacturer your retailer is worth their weight in gold. I asked one store manager, "How many customers come in your store with a specific product mind?" She replied “About 20%, the other 80% rely on us to help them pick specific products or solutions." I’m not a math major but it’s easy to pick which percentage you want to be part of. And the retailers on the bus - they played the right percentages as well.