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Natural Foods Merchandiser

9 ways to compete with retailers that offer deep discounts

9 ways to compete with retailers that offer deep discounts
If the never-ending sale at a nearby natural products chain is luring away your customers, or cheap prices offered at online stores are cutting into your supplement sales, you can do more than just slash prices, say experts.

Is the never-ending sale at a nearby natural products chain luring away your customers? Are the price cuts offered at a new online store cutting into your supplement sales? You can compete by doing more than slashing your own prices, say experts. The key is to capitalize on your many strengths, including your ability to offer superior customer service and education. Use the following tips to identify your assets and get the most profit from them.

Retail consultant: Bill Crawford, Director of retail programs, Boulder, Colo.–based New Hope Natural Media

  1. Emphasize your differences. If you can’t compete on price, focus instead on services that set you apart. After all, a recent American Express survey showed that 70 percent of American consumers are willing to spend 13 percent more in exchange for superior customer service. So what might you be able to offer? Options include highly trained staff members, ingredient and product standards that safeguard customer wellness, shopper education classes and the ability to special-order products.

  2. Be competitive on bellwether items. You never want to be the high-price leader on those key products that other stores feature, such as organic milk or eggs. If you are, you will create the impression that you mark up other items as well. Become more price competitive on these items by talking to your brokers, distributors and manufacturers about negotiating discounts.

  3. Recognize that discounting is a slippery slope. No retailer is better known for offering discounts than Walmart. A recent survey revealed that 88 percent of Walmart shoppers think that the chain should offer more coupons in addition to its low prices. That mind-set is understandable in current tough economic conditions, but will your store survive if you continually lower prices? Once you start down that road, it is hard to return to solid footing.

Natural products manufacturer: Kiki Roesch, Educational specialist, Park City, Utah–based Nutraceutical Corporation

  1. Give special treatment. If a shopper requests a product you don’t carry, order it for her. When you buy directly from a manufacturer, you can take advantage of lower minimum orders, allowing you to get products more frequently based on customer needs. Tell your shopper that the product will arrive faster than an Internet purchase and without shipping charges.

  2. Be trendy. Stay one step ahead of customers by listening to Dr. Oz and ordering products he mentions. Or if a shopper comes in regularly for a specific item, stock it at all times. Customers will appreciate your leadership and convenience, which often beats a discount.

  3. Join the “buy local” movement. Our country was founded on small businesses, and they still influence our lifestyles and drive the middle class. Some communities encourage residents to shop locally on “Small Business Saturday” ( If your town or city doesn’t, promote this idea within your own locally owned store. Beyond this, feature items from local artisans and regional producers that your customers won’t find in superstores. Advertise the quality and freshness of your offerings, which the online shops can’t provide from a warehouse of products.

Retailer: Kyle Faino, Director of ecommerce and marketing, Seattle–based Super Supplements

  1. Know your customer. All shoppers want value, but value isn’t measured by price alone. Understand exactly what your customers want and what they perceive as value. It might be service. It might be selection. It might be exposure to exciting new products. At Super Supplements, our leadership team reads every customer comment card, and we actively incorporate the voice of the customer into all of our decisions.

  2. Make shopping simple. Discounters may offer the best price, but are they easy to do business with? When we created our online channel, we set up a “Send-to-Store” option that allows customers to shop online and pick up orders at one of our retail locations. Also, customers can purchase online but initiate a return at the physical store and vice-versa.

  3. Create an experience. We feel good when customers leave our stores with the right products for their individual needs or goals. We feel even better when customers leave feeling well taken care of, better informed and inspired to live healthfully. To facilitate this, we provide ongoing staff education and remodel our stores regularly. Our stores and customer service are designed to provide an accommodating place to browse, learn and shop in ways that discount-centric stores would have a hard time matching.


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