Meeting Shopper Needs Is a Win-Win For Brands, Independents

Independent retailers, and especially those in the natural space, are the lifeblood of the communities they serve. They typically have a strong commitment to the community, sustainability, local schools and causes, and educating their loyal customers about brands specifically designed to meet their needs.

Independent natural retailers fill a void that larger retailers can’t meet. No one retailer can completely service every consumer’s needs. Specialization offers choices to a wide variety of shoppers. The small independent retailer might have unique specialty items while the larger mainstream retailer can support large families with tight budgets.

Independent natural retailers serve as incubators for new products and new innovation. They can also act as the “R&D departments” for new brands, helping manufacturers understand consumer needs. Most large natural brands can trace their roots back to an independent retailer with the courage to sell their new items.

For this reason, it is imperative that natural manufacturers pay homage to the retailers that helped launch their brands. Helping the retailer secure new innovation along with top-selling items in the marketplace can and will help natural retailers compete head-to-head with their larger competitors.

Conversely, it is a huge mistake for independent natural retailers to turn their back on brands once they gain distribution at their competitor. Retailers sometimes forget that consumers perceive stores missing top-selling natural brands as having a poor selection.

There needs to be a healthy balance between popular items and the unique items that differentiate the retailer from their competition. The goal is to capture the largest share of a consumer’s monthly purchases in your market and to keep customers coming back.

The “win-win” is to be viewed as a store with a good selection of popular top-selling brands, a friendly helpful staff, and innovative products that consumers are searching for.

Larger natural retailers and mainstream retailers typically cherry-pick the top-selling items to drive consumer traffic to their stores. Their reach and ability to invite consumers to try natural products are unparalleled. Unfortunately, most of them focus on converting consumers to their private label products. The focus should be on supporting the shopper’s needs and wants first and then providing alternative choices on their shelves.

The opportunity for the natural retailers is to maximize each and every selling opportunity and to create a unique shopping experience that keeps customers coming back. This means turning occasional shoppers into committed loyal shoppers at your stores.
The natural channel is the incubator for the healthy living movement. The opportunities are great for any company willing to invest in its future and willing to take a leadership role in our industry.

This means maximizing all the available resources, owning every part of the sales process, maximizing efforts at shelf, developing targeted marketing programs that drive customer traffic, and paying particular attention to the core consumer’s wants and needs.
This is the kind of support every retailer needs to remain competitive. Brands need to work closely with retailers to best meet the shopper’s needs and to remain competitive.

©2017 Category Management Solutions All rights reserved.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine February 2018

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Dan Lohman is a CPG and Natural and Organic Industry Strategic Advisor. His company Brand Secrets and Strategies provides innovative ideas, actionable insights and strategic solutions to the challenges that brands and retailers face. Dan assists retailers and brands in expanding their distribution, growing sales and getting their products on more store shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. His extensive knowledge reaches beyond traditional category management and has earned him recognition throughout the industry as an influencer, expert, speaker, trainer and thought leader. Dan is passionate about empowering brands and raising the bar. His Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast is a popular natural and organic products accelerator for food startups, healthy brands and retailers. In addition to sharing his 25 years of experience, Dan talks with well-known thought leaders, CEOs and founders of successful industry companies who candidly share insider secrets. As a top contributor to the leading trade publications, he has published over 300 articles. A trusted and respected member of the natural and organic community, Dan’s weekly newsletter, podcast, free resources and online mini courses have become an invaluable resource for brands and retailers seeking to grow sales and gain a sustainable competitive advantage. To learn more please visit: