Normally, when we talk about “overcoming obstacles” we think about educating customers about the benefits of certain nutrients, while reassuring them that, although the supplements in our stores might cost more initially, the results are well worth the difference. Or, overcoming obstacles might just have to do with generating more store traffic in an already quiet location.
But of course, there are other obstacles that you no doubt encountered in recent months during the COVID-19 safer-at-home shutdowns.
While each state enforced their own level of restrictions, and while in many cases health food stores were deemed essential services, there was an incredibly high burden on store owners to continue to offer their expertise to their customers.
The silver lining, if there is one, is that many store owners and managers can think of creative ways of overcoming a multitude of obstacles. I’d like to outline a few ways to help your business thrive and remain strong, even during a global pandemic.
Keep in Touch With Your Customers: If you already have an email newsletter and an active web site, you’ve probably been able to stay in touch. Your online and social media presence is critical here. If it seemed only like an added extra before the crisis, online connections with your customers and a robust social media presence were needed more than ever before.
Stock Up: Not surprisingly, any product related to building up immune defenses is going strong, and most likely will into the unforeseen future. For the stores that could open, there was, naturally, an initial run on supplements that bolstered immune responses, but adaptogens for stress reduction, botanicals that fight anxiety, and virtually anything that could fall under the category of “self-care” went quickly in the early weeks of the shutdown. This may represent a major point of learning for many customers as well as store owners and managers: quality products are going to be tough to keep in stock for one simple reason: they work.
Be sure that you keep a well-stocked inventory of the items that moved the fastest, and be ready to innovate and cross-recommend potential replacement supplements that can fulfill some of the same needs in case commodity ingredients are in short supply.
Adapt and Experiment: Accommodating curbside pickup and other special requests from customers can be an opportunity for your store to shine. You’ve already built up a lot of credibility with customers who have helped make your business a destination. Now you can show how much you can go above and beyond to help. After all, as you’ve gotten to know your customers better, you also know what their regular purchases are and can specifically customize their orders, suggest possible new products, and make their time coming to your location well spent.
Definitely keep the word out there that your store is doing everything it can to take care of its customers, including new customers, by putting display ads in local papers, partnering with local Chamber of Commerce for virtual events that are often promoted on local TV stations. And of course, update your Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlook regularly to let everybody know that you are still open and ready to meet their needs.
Promote Learning: This is another way for your store to shine, even if in-person seminars and workshops have been postponed, there is much you can do. Capitalize on the goodwill and relationships you have created, and continue to reach out via online live chats, store-generated webinars, or through any other method that you’ve established in your digital efforts. If having an online presence wasn’t a priority in the past, it certainly will be now.
Rotate Your Staff: Every business wants to keep its top employees, and if you’ve been hiring the best, they’re probably all top employees in their own ways. One way to keep as many people on board, especially with reduced hours of operation, is to shift the schedule so that everyone at least gets a chance to work. While this isn’t the ideal situation, it may yield unexpected, positive results. For instance, you may find that employees who were known for their customer interactions also have a sixth sense for reordering and restocking exactly the items your store requires to anticipate customers’ needs.
Respond Skillfully to Your Customers’ Reduced Incomes: It’s a good bet that a percentage of your customers may have been furloughed or laid off during the past few months. They may be, just now, getting back on their feet again, but still want to feel healthy thanks to the previous work of you and your staff.
Given that, help your customers remain in optimal health and within their budget whenever you can. That may mean, counter intuitively, that they need to purchase a larger bottle of multivitamin and mineral formula, a clinically studied curcumin, or an omega-3 product in order to reduce the cost per serving and keep them stocked up for a longer time. That may also mean some creative work on behalf of you and your staff when it comes to finding combination formulas that, for the time being, can provide most of the benefits of two or more single-ingredient supplements.
Be the Example Your Staff and Customers Need: Getting through tough times is going to be a challenge. Many of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetimes, so it feels like we’re treading on new ground—and that ground doesn’t seem solid right now.
Mentoring and mutual support during a crisis is essential. One of the things we absolutely need to do during any time of fear or uncertainty is to stand with each other and support each other. You can help fulfill an important role in your mission. You’re making sure that the people around you, customers and coworkers alike, are not just surviving during this stressful period, but thriving and becoming more resilient and stronger than ever. I believe that we will get through this and overcome one of the biggest obstacles our businesses, and our lives, have ever seen. 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.