Shoppers can be picky about produce. A slightly bruised apple or misshapen tomato can sometimes be enough to let a perfectly good item go to waste. Vig’s Health Food Store of Lewiston, ID, recently decided to do something about it by introducing the Imperfect Produce Bin. The store has deep roots in selling produce, though it is strong in supplements sales today.

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What makes you decide to shop in a store? If you need diapers for the baby, maybe you don’t need to get in the car and drive to a brick-and-mortar location. You know the brand, style and size you need, and you can save time and possibly money by simply going online and finding the best deal. Today, shoppers have begun to choose the channel they shop based on which products they need, and when they need it. Commodities, those everyday consumables like diapers or single-serve coffee brew cups, are increasingly coming from online sources, as consumers realize they don’t need to waste time and gas, fight traffic and brave bad weather, just to replace ho-hum everyday products.

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According to Bob Phibbs, “The Retail Doctor,” on The Kinesis Blog, it takes less than 0.05 seconds for online users to form an opinion about a Web site (1). This impression forms users’ opinions about a company and dictates whether they will stay or leave the site. As a business, it is important to develop a cohesive, professional brand on your Web site—and to overhaul it when the time is right.

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Way back in my distribution days, when we started servicing conventional supermarkets that wanted to bring in “natural sets” for the first time, nearly all of the brands we wholesaled were ecstatic at the chance to dramatically increase their sales. This included both food and supplement manufacturers. There were, however, a few vendors—supplement companies—that didn’t want their products available through a “non-natural” channel and asked us to keep their products out of those supermarket sets. We complied.

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Do you factor generational differences into your approach to acquiring new customers? How much thought do you give to a generational mix when designing your advertising and marketing programs? Are you looking for a new method to stay ahead of your competition and stay on the leading edge? If so, then consider generational differences when preparing your sales materials. It is important to know that NO generation follows another in mindset, based upon the social circumstances they were raised with in their youth.

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Sprouts Farmers Markets announces plans for 1,200 U.S. stores. In response, Whole Foods Market ups its projections to 1,200 stores from 1,000 stores. Fresh Thyme targets the Midwest for 50 stores, saying there are “gaps” in service from conventional grocers they plan to exploit. Mrs. Green’s, with nearly 20 stores in the northeast now, sets a goal of 20 new stores, branching out even more to the Midwest in the next couple of years. Earth Fare moves out of its southeastern hub up into the Midwest with store counts climbing over 30. Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, with 81 stores, plans 15–20 openings per year for the foreseeable future.

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At this point, we all know that social media can be a great marketing tool and many stores are active on Facebook, Twitter or both. Once you’ve signed up for a social media account and placed the Follow Us on Facebook link prominently on your Web site, you’ll inevitably ask yourself the question, “What do I post?”

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Crush is the word that came to mind as I navigated Hall E, the lower level of Natural Products Expo West, in Anaheim, CA, in early March. This is where newer companies exhibit, some launching at the show. The aisles were packed, something I expected since hotels had sold out last fall.

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A recent trend popping up in health food is that of boxed snacks sent to customers’ doors on a monthly basis. Online-based snack companies are packaging dried fruits, seeds, nuts and other nutritious goodies and shipping them out to their customers each month. Some pre-made packages come in themes like “Healthy Holiday Habits” and “Around-the-World Snacks,” while other online companies let you hand-pick which snacks you want delivered.

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A few years ago, an independent natural products retailer with several stores got a new point-of-sale system. Because they had been ordering manually, going from store to store on different days of the week, the owners were very excited that they would be able to remotely track products and sales, and be able order from their central office, saving time and money.

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