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Natural Foods Merchandiser

What's normal? Don't expect a new or return to normal—expect retail

Christine Kapperman
In this year's Market Overview, we look back and assess what has changed, but we can't tell retailers what the normal will be, or what's next.

I remember looking forward to 2020 with enthusiasm. Then, well, we know what happened a few months in. The world changed. It was challenging. It remains so. But I remain hopeful we have all changed for the better.

Now, 18 months later, retailers I talk to still feel a little stuck in COVID-induced craziness.

I get it. Even as unmasking grows, uncertainty persists. Retailers pine for a return to normal, an understanding of the new normal, a clearer path forward to the what's next.

I can't say that we have the answers in this year's Market Overview, even as we look back and assess what has changed. But we will continue to ask questions, measure what's happening in the market and report what's occurring along with measured prognostication here.

For now, as we do every summer, we look at the state of natural retailing to give store leaders something to understand the big market picture and the detailed data to compare and measure their own successes against.

The benchmark numbers are not as minute this year compared with past years because of the limited data set we had to work with. Retailers were still busy dealing with mandates, illnesses, supply issues and so much more as we embarked on the research early this year. So, instead of our typical three categories broken down into seven brick-and-mortar store segments, we focus on the big three: natural products stores, natural food stores and supplement stores. Find the results here:

The overarching story of the year: It was very good for natural and organic.

The real story, the nearly unmeasurable story: No average nor singular experience emerged in a year that was anything but normal from day to day and month to month.

Finding "normal" may not be possible. Maybe it never should have been a pre-pandemic goal, either.

Retail is ever-changing and that movement is quickening in this always-on world. COVID-19 might have caused the world to take a pause. But no such thing exists in retailing—never has, never will.

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