In the past few years, retailers have had to make a lot of adjustments with little notice. And even today it is not unusual to wonder when things will “return to normal.” But our current situation and the foreseeable future may have become normal now. So, it’s critical to review when and how to stay flexible and pivot in order to keep your business thriving. With that said, I have a few recommendations—some for when to pivot successfully, and others for how to pivot successfully. Some of these ideas you may be putting into practice already. If so, that’s great. If not, then I hope they provide valuable food for thought.
When to Pivot Successfully: When New Research Demands It
I’m sure that many of your customers are self-directed and stay current with health and nutrient research, especially if you make educational events part of your usual schedule. Because of that, there will be times when new products, or even novel formulations using well-known botanicals surge in popularity. So, encourage your team to stay informed on emerging science as much as possible and be ready to add clinically validated products to your inventory when it looks like they will be the next big thing.
Of course, making changes in store stock based on what appears to be a flurry of interest requires some experience and careful discernment, too. Not every health headline yields true gold—sometimes what seems like a breakthrough is simply a short-lived fad and isn’t sustainable for sales or truly valuable for your customers’ well-being. But nonetheless, staying informed about the latest research and nutrients from reputable sources will help you make the necessary adjustments and get ahead of the demands of the marketplace rather than being surprised by them.
When Customers Adapt New Habits
During the height of COVID restrictions, businesses had to pivot and offer more online and curbside options in order to meet the needs of their customers and the demands of regulations and the marketplace. For some, curbside, local delivery and an online connection—even to a store nearby—have become welcome additions to their shopping behaviors. That’s okay. Accommodating these newer changes can help distinguish your store from anonymous online retailers or big box stores that can’t—and often won’t—offer personalized service.
When Staffing Is a Challenge
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. But even the best people will want some flexibility in their schedules now and then, and your top performers will look elsewhere if they feel they aren’t learning new things or being challenged in a positive way.
So being able to pivot regarding hours can potentially show unexpectedly good results. For instance, you may find that employees who are known for their customer interactions also have a sixth sense for reordering and restocking exactly the items your store requires to anticipate customers’ needs. And some of your team members who might have had trouble finding their pace in the morning hours may be the best people to catch your afternoon customer traffic, recover the store, and close up shop at night. In fact, they may be surprised at how much they like flexing in their roles and hours.
How to Pivot Successfully
By Staying in Touch with Your Customers: Your online and social media presence is critical. Online connections with your customers and a robust social media presence are key to letting them know about your latest product promotions, special store events, and for keeping connected to your community near and far. Staying active online also trains customers to continually check back to see what’s new—and that’s especially important when you need to switch gears, including store hours or letting your customers know about brand new products and the science behind them. A strong social media presence helps generate excitement and should absolutely be part of your ongoing marketing plan, and the first place you announce any news about your business.
By Editing Your Selections Thoughtfully: If you’ve genuinely tried to promote certain products in your inventory, but just can’t seem to get them to move, it’s probably time to let them go and replace them with something better. As always, make sure that whatever takes their place can’t be easily found someplace else. In an era of online-everything, this can seem like a tough job—and it is. But combined with stellar service, your unique offerings will continue to make your store a destination for loyal customers and will draw new ones, too. But when it comes to staying profitable and flexible, you can’t afford to donate shelf space to items that aren’t selling.
By Visiting the Competition: Checking out other stores can be a very helpful strategy when you’re looking for different ideas. First, it allows you to see other approaches toward displays, signage, aisle arrangements, and events that you could adapt to your own store. Maybe they have a creative way of promoting their guest speakers or featured products that hadn’t occurred to you before. Or conversely, they have some of the same ideas you’ve been kicking around regarding end cap displays, shelf categories, and up-and-coming natural foods but haven’t tried yet, and now you can see how they work. That doesn’t mean you have to mindlessly copy anyone, but there’s nothing wrong with adapting a concept, and improving it. If there’s a concept you see in action somewhere else that can help you boost your own store’s success, take note, and make it your own.
By Listening to Your Team: Sometimes we can overlook great ideas that are close at hand. Every member of your team has strengths they excel at: let them weigh in, too. Promoting an atmosphere of trust and allowing questions and suggestions helps everyone feel engaged and ultimately creates the ground for changing things up when it’s time to do so.
By Adapting and Experimenting: You’ve already done this before—quite recently, in fact. During the waves of COVID restrictions and challenges, you were able to change course quickly and creatively in order to help your business and help others, too.
Although many daily aspects of running a store may not have the same drama as those days certainly did, there are few dull moments—unless your store needs a refresh and some new ideas. Pivoting creatively and staying flexible in order to meet changing circumstances is simply good sense. And there’s nothing wrong with changing up displays, store events, and even store hours to stay relevant, accessible and exciting for your customers—even if the bottom line doesn’t immediately demand it. In fact, freshening up your store’s operations may be exactly the pivot you need for continued success for years to come. 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 Stores in Green Bay & Suamico, WI, which recently won its eighth consecutive consumer choice award as “Best of the Bay.” With more than 50 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 a weekly radio show and newsletter, podcasts, webinars and personal speaking engagements. He is author of 13 books, including Seven Keys to Vibrant Health, Seven Keys to Unlimited Personal Achievement and 50+ Natural Health Secrets.