Natural Foods Merchandiser

Retailer Roundtable: Retail is detail

The group that gathered for the Retailer to Retailer roundtable in the Retail Resource Center on the show floor Thursday was small, but it represented a microcosm of the industry and the evolving state of retail.

There were traditional brick-and-mortar-store owners such as Donnie Caffery of Richmond, VA-based Good Food Grocery and Sue Bennett of For Goodness Sake, also based in Virginia, who have been in business since the early days when the idea of dietary supplements, bulk foods and whole grains was decidedly counterculture. These days, the tables have turned and the mainstream is knocking on the naturals industry’s door. “Now doctors are coming into our stores and asking us for advice,” said Bennett.

On the other side of the table, Eric Vonheim of Terrible Tummys, a probiotic product, told the group how social networking works for his company. He said it’s about reaching next-generation customers on their own ground in terms of the method of communication and the message. “When it comes to probiotics, it seems that everyone is marketing the ingredients, but nobody’s selling the benefits,” Vonheim said. “You have to find ways to connect with the customer.” For Terrible Tummys that means maintaining an active Twitter page where Vonheim posts product updates and information as well as interesting news stories from around the web and even personal tidbits about great restaurants—it’s about building community to support the sales of the product.

The discussion ranged from how to work with distributors to tips for pricing and managing inventory. New-school retailers touted the benefits of the internet while old-schoolers touted the tried-and-true values that have built the industry: customer service, educated staff and effective management of people and resources. Donnie Caffery, who has been in the natural industry since 1979 summed it up in three words: “Retail is detail.”

Retailers! Stop by the Retailer to Retailer roundtable Friday in the Retail Resource Center on the show floor (on your right when you get off the escalator) from 11:30 am to 1 pm to talk about the highs and lows of natural retailing.

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