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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Weigh In: How do I execute a successful health fair or store event?

Weigh In: How do I execute a successful health fair or store event?
Events can boost sales that day and going forward, increase your customer base and further cement your important place in the community. Here's how to plan a successful event.

Health and wellness seminars, store anniversary celebrations, fall festivals—events such as these can be a huge boon for your business. They can boost sales that day and going forward, increase your customer base and further cement your important place in the community. Ah, but planning and pulling off such events takes work—a lot of work. Where to begin? Three experts offer their wise advice. 

Event Coordinator

Set clear objectives. In the early planning stages, ask yourself key questions: What are you trying to accomplish? Is your goal to increase sales that day and beyond? Who is your target audience? How do you hope to enhance vendor relationships? How will this event reinforce your image in the community? Establishing clear goals will help you craft a more successful event.  

Appoint a qualified leader. Even if you have a full marketing department, any large, significant event definitely needs a leader. He or she must have excellent communication and team-building skills and pay close attention to detail. This person must also know how to delegate tasks and keep up on the team’s progress to make sure goals are met.

Don’t fear failure. A first-time event may not go as well as you’d hoped or might turn out differently than you’d imagined. I hate to say that failure is great, but it can provide more lessons when something doesn’t go right by letting you know what to do better next time. Don’t give up or be scared to try again. Evaluate the event immediately afterward so you’ll remember what to fix.

–Erin Erickson, promotions and education coordinator at Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville, Minnesota


Think outside the store. When we moved our annual Health and Wellness Seminar to the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, which holds 1,300 people, the event really took off. Having a large, professional-type venue tends to attract more people than holding it in-store. The following day Tunie’s has a big sale featuring exhibiting vendors’ products. It’s usually our largest sales day of the year.

Find engaging speakers. If you’re having speakers, it’s crucial that they are engaging and cover interesting topics that aren’t too pigeonholed. One year we had Montel Williams, who discussed living with multiple sclerosis but also spoke more broadly about leading an inspired, healthy lifestyle. Get speaker recommendations from your team, and see if any of your vendors have relationships with influential people in the industry.

Advertise, advertise, advertise. If you want your event to get at least the same attendance as the year before, but you don’t advertise enough, your numbers will drop. We learned this lesson a few years back. Now we start advertising to customers early and often—stuffing bags with fliers, putting up posters all over the store and emailing shoppers multiple times. Repetitiveness is key.

–Taylor Hamilton, owner of Tunie’s Natural Grocery and Vitamin Market in Coral Springs, Florida


Retail Accounts Specialist

Work trade show floors. Smart retailers plan for health and wellness events before attending Natural Products Expo East and West and other trade shows. Gather info from your brokers, make a list of booths to hit, and get samples. You can really get a lot done at trade shows because you can talk directly to manufacturers about your event and ask if they can donate product. They usually don’t say no when speaking with you face-to-face. 

Invite local practitioners to exhibit. When planning a health and wellness fair, reach out early to local integrative and alternative health practitioners such as yoga and tai chi instructors, chiropractors and acupuncturists. Have them set up a booth or station and demo what they do best. This lets you expand your store’s community while helping them increase their client bases.

Maximize in-store resources. Use all of your store’s resources the best you can. Have your bakery make cakes or breads to sample out, and ask the meat department to put together something special to showcase. By involving every department, you’ll get all of your team members excited and on board, so they don’t always feel like they’re behind the scenes. 

–Mary Beth Catapano, retail accounts manager at New Hope Network in Boulder, Colorado

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