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Supplement sales soar with focused customer serviceSupplement sales soar with focused customer service

Rhonda Bone, owner of Nature’s Way, a two-store operation in San Antonio, Texas details how she's managed to remain a go-to-shopping destination for more than 13 years in a competitive retail environment.  

Kelsey Blackwell

June 24, 2013

3 Min Read
Supplement sales soar with focused customer service

Rhonda Bone still feels a rush when she helps shoppers identify products to address their health concerns. Although she’s worked in natural retail since she was 14, her passion for serving shoppers and providing health solutions has kept her in the business. In 2000, she purchased Nature’s Way, a two-store operation in San Antonio, Texas, from her mother and changed the name to Rhonda’s Nature’s Way.  Its devout following proves she’s doing something right.

Natural Foods Merchandiser:  Nature’s Way was one of the first natural products stores in your area. How have you remained competitive? 

Rhonda Bone: We have never really looked at the other stores as competition because we’re still thriving. There’s a Sprouts Farmers Market across the street from one of our locations. I just look at it like putting a gas station across from another gas station. I send shoppers to Sprouts, and they send people to me. There’s room for everyone, and we’re here to help as many residents as possible with their health.

NFM: How do you differentiate? 

RB: Both of our stores are only about 1,000 square feet, so it’s a quick in-and-out for shoppers who know exactly what they want. Of course, we’re always here to guide customers who need more information. We try to do a lot of customer service, which includes education. We regularly go to conventions and seminars. We often hear people say, “If anyone would have it or know about it, it would be you.”

NFM: Are mainstream media such as The Dr. Oz Show encouraging more people to make healthier choices? 

RB: I appreciate TV programs such as Dr. Oz and The Doctors because they reach people nationwide, whereas I can only talk to the handful of shoppers who come through my doors. I think people are definitely more aware of what they’re eating, but that doesn’t always mean they’re making healthy choices. For example, a lot of people take supplements but still eat junk food. We had one diabetic customer who loved his beer. As long as he took the supplements, his numbers stayed good so he could drink it. We know food can be addictive. That’s why I think an ongoing relationship with someone shoppers see regularly, in real life, is key to helping them make positive changes. I can’t say the influx of these shows has brought a lot of new shoppers into my store. 

NFM: How do you help people find effective products?

RB: First, I tell them that I’m not a doctor and I can’t diagnose, treat or cure. Many will say they’ve been to a doctor and still haven’t found results. I’m a detective for anyone who comes in. If a customer is having pain, I might ask: How long have you had it? Were you injured? Is it hereditary? Is it caused by arthritis? Is the pain occasional? You have to dig and find out. I’d say 80 percent of our customers are trying to manage ongoing pain. Then there’s diabetes, which is also very prevalent here, high cholesterol and, of course, weight loss. I work with shoppers to address their core issue. When you find out what that is, you go from there. I might spend 20 to 30 minutes with one customer. I often work the store alone, so that means some might have to wait. Most often, they’re happy to do so because they know I’ll give them the same individual attention. We rarely have an unhappy customer. 



About the Author(s)

Kelsey Blackwell

Senior Food Editor, Natural Foods Merchandiser

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