by Matt Weik
Stationary retail has been hit from all sides for years. Not only are they struggling with the big outlets that buy in such bulk that it’s nearly impossible to compete on price, but consumers are now (more than ever) going straight to a brand’s website to make their purchases. What can supplement brands do to help their retail partners?
Here is a brief story to help better explain the problem
Back when I was the regional manager for a nutritional supplement company, all the time I heard from my gyms and nutritional supplement stores that they couldn’t compete with places like Walmart, Target, BJ’s, Sam’s Club, and Costco. And to be honest, I agreed with them. It made my job SO MUCH harder when they bought a box of bars (12 bars) for around $ 18-24 to sell between $ 2.50 and $ 5 a bar.
The problem was that people were already going to the Big Box, FDM, and wholesale locations mentioned above and buying the same bars for $ 1 or 2 a bar while buying all of their other household products there. The smaller brick and mortar retailers don’t stand a chance, and many of them feel like supplement brands are hanging them up to dry by offering insane low prices to their competitors on the street.
Nowadays people literally have to go out of their way to make a purchase from a nutritional supplement store. It’s not like you go to Target to buy some cleaning supplies, maybe groceries, decorations for your home, etc and then grab a box of protein bars or the supplements you need there.
Trust me, I see the problem from both sides of the fence and it’s not a fun experience to witness. On one hand, you take care of your retail partners and specialty accounts that you have become good friends with, but you have to side with the company that will sign your paycheck and not give in on pricing your accounts. So what’s the best solution?
Don’t forget the little boys who made you big
I used to fight weekly about this issue with the supplement company I worked for. I was on the front lines shooting due to the steps the company was taking to adapt to FDM and give them preferential rates. With prices this low, my accounts in the gym and supplement stores couldn’t even keep up. I came up with ideas on how to help my retailers, but I was pushed aside and didn’t get the resources my accounts needed. The focus of the supplement brand was clearly on FDM.
So what can supplement brands do?
Show some love
For starters, they need to show more love and try to push more local businesses into their gym and replenish the business accounts. People will shop at Target, Walmart, Costco and all the other big retailers without the need for supplement brands to advertise and market their products to be available in those locations – it is basically expected these days.
And let’s face it, anyone can go online and google a particular supplement or brand and see more online retailers than they could ever imagine selling the products they are looking for. But it’s harder for the smaller brick-and-mortar guys to play a role unless they’re spending a ton of money on advertising going online and social media – but at the same time, they’d need a website on which they can sell their products to make it really work (which all retailers should have physically and online).
Dealer of the Week (or Month)
Why not have a monthly or weekly retail spotlight? Make it a gym or supplement store and share it on social media and an email list. Work out a deal with the retail partners where they might give you 10-15% off an entire line of products for the week, and both the retailer and the supplement brand split the discount down the middle so everyone has some skin in the game (or whatever) all parties agree).
If you’re a larger company, a weekly retail spotlight shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re a smaller supplement company, a monthly spotlight might be easier to manage. However, the commitment to a weekly retailer spotlight can start a fire under the supplement brand’s bum to go outside and open some new doors.
Supplement brands should really consider starting demos again not only to promote the brand and bring it to potential customers, but also to test their products. This is the hardest part these days when there is no shortage of nutritional supplement brands on store shelves and online. Both the supplement brands and retailers can promote the demo on their social media and use their email list to get the word out and direct people to a specific retailer. This is something that can be done on a weekly basis.
Demos would also be an excellent time to run some promotions to get people on the door.
Save Small Businesses!
We need to keep our small businesses from going out of business for good. Fortunately, in 2020, even after COVID closed everything, nutritional supplement stores and nutritional supplement brands could remain open and were deemed “essential”. However, many did not want to go into retail stores and preferred to order their things online.
It’s time to revitalize brick and mortar business that has been battered by e-commerce over the years and is being forgotten by supplement brands. These mom and pop shops and gyms need your help. Support your local small business!