The Success, Stresses, & Struggles: Retailers Sound Off

Our industry is united in a noble goal: to help people feel their best and live a happy, healthy life. There’s plenty we don’t agree on, of course, and the feedback we got from independent natural products retailers responding to WholeFoods 44th Annual Retailer Survey shows the range of viewpoints on COVID-19. Still, all share the common sentiment that we are here to serve our communities and support our staffs. Just a few of the comments from retailers responding to the survey during the summer of 2021:

“We’re worried about the divisive opinions regarding wearing masks…It always seems 50/50: Half our employees/customers are mad if we wear masks and ask them to do the same; the other half are mad if we don’t wear masks or require customers to. We will continue to follow best practice guidelines regardless, but the whole thing always feel like a ticking time bomb with employee(s) and/or customer(s) ready to walk out any moment.”

“The horrors of covid-19 still linger. Masks, sanitizing stations, etc., to keep people safe, and ease their mind, are still challenging…Some customers get offended if you wear a mask. As a healthcare provider and business owner, masks are worn faithfully at any event. It’s not political, just science!”

“Based on the best research, though not largely shared, mass COVID viral immunity would put our general population in a better overall health position than either a vaccine mandate or the wearing of masks. I intend to do my part to help proactively promote good health by potentiating immune responses with nutritional support products and lifestyle recommendations, etc. We need to do those things that do not divide but bring our country together.”

“COVID is always on our minds. The rise in the Delta variant locally has given us some concern about the fall and what it might do to our sales. Last year’s holiday season was a bust because of the pandemic and we’re really hoping for a better fall this year.”

“The constant back and forth on what you can do and can’t do when dealing with the Virus. Now the Delta strain adds even more confusion to the mix. Our employees are scared to death about what to expect next for their future. Government at all levels issue constantly changing what you can/can’t do.”

“First of all [in] dealing with all this [is] making sure we all stay healthy and safe. [I] give my help and offer better healthy products and stay informed; learn as much as you can. Be positive and help others out and care as well. Business will get better; believe what is right for you and others.”

“This last week or two people are starting to get nervous like they were a year ago. Precautions and sanitation procedures are continuing to be implemented. Most of our clients are vaccinated. It helps a little. We just keep rolling on and hope for the best. People are still shopping and getting out.”

“Have been in business since 1993. Last year was slow but steady as customers stayed in and ordered online. This year business is down as a lot of customers have learned to shop online. Employees are upbeat and have not let COVID or Government issues get them down. Supply from Vendors is a nightmare. I believe most manufacturers and distributors have been affected, which has majorly affected sales. Cannot get products for months, raw materials, packaging, short staff and now that’s even worse as Delta is hitting staff. Other than that, life is Great!”

The emotional toll has been significant, but what about the financial impact? In the survey, we share the numbers, along with more commentary from retailers. We hope this information provided will help you weather the storms, fine-tune your business plan, and emerge stronger in 2022. This special section includes the Retail Insights® 2022 Retail Universe for U.S. Premium Natural, Organic Food, Supplement & Personal Care Sales, advice on how to compete with Amazon, and insights into how to build trust and loyalty.

There’s more available online, including a look at investments in promotions and sales by category. And stay tuned for details of a webinar. Jay Jacobowitz and I will discuss key findings, plus answer questions regarding the survey.

My thanks to everyone who helped compile this survey: the retailers for taking the time to respond even while dealing with the pressures of COVID; Jay for crunching the numbers; Creative Director Christina Smith for designing the issue; and Senior Editor Julia Peterman for helping to ensure that all is accurate. Thanks also go to Nutrasource, our sponsor for this year’s survey and webinar. The data here can be shared with lenders and investors to help raise capital needed for a remodel or expansion, and to map out future plans, making your contribution of great value to everyone in the natural products industry, and we hope it makes a positive difference for you.

Wishing you all better days ahead.

Maggie Jaqua
Content Director