Chattanooga, TN — Ed Jones, founder of Nutrition World, is on a mission to bulletproof the natural products retail industry and he wants you to join him.
Jones has started an education campaign to rally independents to demand respect from their vendors in the form of a Minimum Advertised Price policy (MAP) and enforcement of it. He’s created a website NutritionProductsInsider.com which documents MSRP for dozens of brands and what they sell for on Amazon as of Oct. 1 of last year. (He hopes to update the information quarterly.)
“Nutrition World has been a leader in holistic health for almost 40 years,” the website reads. “Locally owned and operated since its conception, we have endured many challenges to our industry through the decades but none as potentially devastating as the lack of MAP pricing on the internet by manufacturers.
“Being on Amazon is just part of business these days. However, that does not mean you shouldn’t be controlling price and honoring partnerships … Anything with 30% or more off MSRP, in our opinion, is simply not honoring the partnerships with independent retailers.”
The “Report,” a snapshot in time, shows some Amazon prices discounted as high as 66% or more off MSRP. It also shows plenty of brands falling well within Jones’s opinion of what constitutes a fair playing field for independents.
Companies he gives credit to for policing MAP include: Vibrant Health, Solgar, Terry Naturally, Nature’s Purest, Nordic Naturals, Probulin, Natural Factors, Bluebonnet Nutrition, Dr. Mercola, Country Life, Garden of Life, MegaFood, Pure Planet, Wiley’s, Nutrigold and Quality of Life.
“Our goal is to level the playing field between the small health store and the online behemoth by using our influence with the very companies who got their start with small health stores, but are now allowing small, individual wholesalers to sell online without adherence to suggested pricing policies,” the website reads.
In an interview with WholeFoods Magazine, Jones said he also wants other independent retailers to know they can stand their ground and make a difference. He and his general manager Chase Ballard have successfully caused some companies to set new policies. And in cases where product lines have been radically reduced – in one case from about 750 SKUs to just 25 – business has not been deeply affected. (It’s actually up 6% this year.)
“You don’t have to be the cheapest in town,” Jones said, “but you have to be pretty close.”
One person Jones convinced to adjust his MAP policy to a 20% discount is Lester Burks, CEO of Life Line Foods, LLC, manufacturer of Buried Treasure Liquid Nutrients. Burks went on to post an open letter to independent health and natural food stores after SoHo Expo to promote its commitment to independents and vowed to vigorously enforce its 20% off MAP policy.
“You see MAP policies at 30, 40, 50% and those are too high for the retailer,” Burks adds. “In my conversation with Ed, I said, ‘If me enforcing my MAP policy is still causing you issues, then where do we need to go?’ At 20%, everyone can make money but it doesn’t harm the independent retailer,” he said.
“The independent retailer is the backbone of this industry. Even though I was adhering, my MAP policy was set too high. Ed and Chase communicated it very clearly,” Burks said.
Jones and Ballard have been talking about MAP for over three years but at the beginning of 2017 is when Nutrition World started to put its foot down and said if you don’t have a MAP policy set, we won’t be able to do business.
Vendors were put on six months notice their products would be discontinued or significantly reduced to a minimum with the exception of items “deemed by us as irreplaceable or unique to the industry.”
The news didn’t go down so well with all manufacturers. One scoffed until Nutrition World cut 40% of its SKUs.
“We had to make some tough calls to show we weren’t bluffing,” Jones said, and “we’re very excited to see the changes.”
As someone who takes 72 supplements a day, Jones understands the simplicity and convenience of just going “click, click” and having product delivered at 50% off.
“We want to have a store in 10 years. What’s happened to the MSRP for sports nutrition is just laughable.”
Nutrition World will be part of an educational webinar later this year hosted by WholeFoods Magazine featuring vendors and a company that helps brands enforce MAP policy on Amazon and other online discounters.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine March 2018