As you’ve established your business, you probably know that it isn’t just a shopping destination, it’s a social destination. And that’s absolutely as it should be.
If your store is busy, and it seems like people simply want to browse awhile, that’s good news. Encourage it and welcome it. Because the more popular your store is as a destination, the more sales you’ll see. But if you’d like to keep the momentum going strong or create a little more, there are a few things you can do to make your business the hub of the local scene—and stay that way.
• Maintain a clean, welcoming store (of course): This is the most obvious and important point. A store must be, from the moment a shopper enters, a welcoming, friendly, and interesting space. As always, acknowledging each customer is critical, and genuinely engaging them is a must. One note about that, though—instruct your staff to be helpful and inquisitive without being too clinging. It may take time for them to develop the emotional intelligence to read people enough to know when giving them their own space is better than appearing too overbearing, but it’s good business and sales practice. Additionally—and I’ve mentioned this before—it’s important to try and see your store from a customer’s perspective. Try to note what would draw you in, help you explore the store, keep you interested and make you feel like you’d want to discover more.
Aisle layout and intriguing displays are a big part of that, and allowing your staff to create appealing endcaps or special featured product sections can help establish a “let’s see what this is about” sense to your store in the minds of your customers. Clear and attractive signage that draws them toward your selection but doesn’t distract from it is part of creative marketing, too. And having aisles that are roomy enough for accessibility to a diversity of shoppers indicates that you value all visitors to your store, too.
• Provide free samples of health foods, smoothies or supplement drink mixes: There’s nothing like appealing to curiosity to create an enjoyable experience. And one of the best ways to do that is by offering free samples of some your store’s long-time favorites or exciting new additions. When people try something, they’re already engaged. After all, vendors at big box retailers and grocers wouldn’t bother with this practice if it didn’t work. If you have the staff and a specialty (like smoothies), mix some up, pour them in small sample cups, and have a person nearby to offer them to customers and extol their virtues.
• Host frequent events, guest speakers, and educational opportunities: Promote the science behind the supplements with expert educators, some of whom may be on your own staff. It is a great way to generate interest and literally support the health of your community. You could also consider partnering with aligned local businesses for an easy “win-win”—think about the synergy behind bringing in a local veterinarian who practices holistic care for a presentation and some of the same natural foods and pet-centered supplements you have in store. Be a good host by insuring that your visitors have ample seating, that printouts of the presentation are available, and that there is built-in time for questions and answers to encourage the open discussions that keep people in the store and guarantees their return.
• Keep a well-stocked loaning library: You may have seen “little libraries” sprouting up in your neighborhood or around your town. You could easily do the same thing at your own store. Either stock a Little Library outside your store (if zoning and space permit), or better yet, have a space inside that allows customers to check out books on various health subjects and a few comfortable chairs and a coffee table that lets anyone, including a tired parent, take a break for awhile and read. Being kid-friendly, allowing access to guest Wi-Fi, and a space or outlet for charging phones isn’t a bad idea, either.
• Consider a café or juice bar: But when I say “consider” I really mean it. It can be a real boost or a real bust. Although we had great cooks at our café, and served excellent, healthy food, I can tell you that having a café or coffee bar option sounds like a naturally good fit with a store, but only if it’s used often enough to be profitable in the long term. Depending on where your store is situated, it makes sense if you are already in a high-traffic area with lingering shoppers between different stores. Of course, events can make a difference, and your store can (and should) become a destination in its own right, but it takes cultivation with time and resources. And sometimes trial and error, too.
• Host a farmers’ market or seasonal markets: We’ve had good luck with this approach. Many of the local farmers and vendors also provide products that we regularly feature in our store. Having them in for a regular market boosts their visibility and gives them a chance to connect with more customers. It also means that customers like to stay around for awhile. Plus, we magnify the overall sense of community by hosting local musicians, too—so it’s a great time for people to relax and enjoy.
• Take note of sections of your store that seem to run “cold”: Is there something in the arrangement of the aisles that makes it that way? How is the product focus in that section of the store? Every square foot is valuable, so maximizing that space in a way that keeps customers lingering is critical. And ask yourself if the offerings in that corner are actually worth a look or if shoppers are going to breeze past them. Selection is important, but you’ve probably seen the term “curated” used often in the past few years to indicate a careful, intentional selection—in this case of health food, supplements, or other natural products. You don’t need to carry everything the big box retailers have—you can stock smarter and surprise your customers with the right products, rather than every product.
Making your store a destination where shoppers feel free to linger and discover the amazing ways you can help them on the path to optimal health can be exciting and a lot of hard work. But ultimately, it’s worth it. You may find that some of these suggestions mirror your plans perfectly, and that some may be a stretch. But that’s what the adventure of helping people is all about. I think that the more you make your store a gathering place that draws people in and helps develop relationships and connections, the more you’ll fulfill your store’s and your customers’ goals. And that’s definitely worth the investment. VR
A highly regarded leader in the natural products industry, Terry Lemerond is founder and president of EuroPharma, Inc. He also founded Enzymatic Therapy, Inc. and PhytoPharmica, Inc. and is currently co-owner of the Terry Naturally Health Food Store in Green Bay, WI, which recently won its sixth consecutive consumer choice award as “Best of the Bay.” With more than 40 years in the natural products industry, Lemerond has researched and developed more than 400 nutritional and botanical formulations that continue to be top-selling products in the market. Lemerond shares his wealth of experience and knowledge in health and nutrition through his educational programs, including the Terry Talks Nutrition website, newsletters, podcasts, webinars and personal speaking engagements. He is the author of two books: Seven Keys to Vibrant Health and the recently updated Seven Keys to Unlimited Personal Achievement.