Canada's business magazine for traditional natural health retailers

Retailing post COVID-19

owners dandelion health foodsCurbside pick-up and delivery were two services that were implemented very quickly at Dandelion Foods in Almonte, ON.  And co-owner Meg Pettipas says they are services that are likely to remain.  “These are services that we've considered in the past, but have put off for future consideration. Given our aging demographic, we will likely keep this service available post-COVID.”

As some restrictions have started to relax, Meg has noticed more customers are shopping in-store and has followed up with some new measures.  “We immediately implemented directional signage for aisles and thinned out some of the display shippers for easier movement around the store. As the regulations relax, and more stores open and customers get tired of staying at home, I can see the need for limiting the number of customers in the store. We're keeping a watchful eye and will implement new measures as needed.”  

Looking to business post COVID-19, Meg predicts a lot of change,  much of it positive.  “In the short term, as restaurants remain closed or limited in their serving, I predict that sales of meals-to-go or heat and serve products continue to hold strong. When business returns to normal, I think there will be an impact on our cleaning practices. This crisis has demonstrated the need for a clear procedure on cleaning, for the safety of customers and staff.  My hope is that many of the new customers that we've gained over the last few months will return to the store. As one of the less than a handful of food stores open in our area, we've had a lot of new customers come in to our store for the first time.”

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Nine ways to make your business healthier

alive rick kroetschRick Kroetsch, associate publisher of Alive Publishing Group had some wonderful information to share with retailers who attended the Puresource retailer conference in June.  The basis of his presentation was to inspire attendees to be opened minded in their quest to make their stores healthier.

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The advertising mix

The advertising mix

In the world of retail marketing, there is a huge choice of media, strategies and techniques that a retailer has at his or her disposal to promote their store.  Whether the objective is to create traffic with point-of-sale promotions, build the store brand or promote specific events… no matter the type of promotion, the tools available to reach the desired audience are collectively known as “the advertising mix.”

The concept of the advertising mix was developed in the early 1950’s. It is essentially a toolbox of different media and promotional techniques that a retailer chooses to fit the needs of their specific marketing objectives. For example, a retailer that has identified that their clientele are highly mobile, may decide to invest a portion of their marketing dollars into radio. It’s a great way to reach travellers – particularly to and from work – and it is an ideal media for high frequency and saturation. It is a very good fit for reaching this demographic.

Conversely, retailers drawing from a large geographic area may choose television for its vast coverage and multi-demographic reach. Retailers focused on specific age-groups or demographics may choose media or promotional techniques that are particular to those potential customers.  Trying to reach seniors?  Sponsor the weekly bingo or perhaps place ads in the senior’s newsletter. Promoting all-natural acne cream for teenagers? Try social media or on-line promotions. Over-stocked on protein powders and L-glutamine?  Try a coupon campaign in conjunction with your local fitness club.  Melatonin sales plateauing? Why not run ads after midnight on the local radio station? Trying to boost your cold and flu remedy sales? Perhaps a few well-placed ads on the Weather Channel will do the trick.

Each of these examples utilizes a specific advertising technique (or media) that is best suited to reach the desired audience. And each offers the optimum chance of capturing the attention of that market.

Since its inception, the advertising mix has evolved as the sophistication of the markets has intensified and as the number of promotional ‘tools’ has increased. For many years, newspaper, radio and television advertising were the stalwarts of the mix. Nowadays, a retailer can also utilize direct mail, couponing (with instant gratification via UPC scanning), live and video in-store marketing concepts, outdoor advertising, transit advertising, google ads, facebook, instagram, twitter and the whole realm of social media,  websites, web sales and webinars, guerrilla marketing (flashmobs to promote your new location?), product placements, email campaigns, public relations (a column in your local newspaper is unbeatable), community outreach programs, award, team and event sponsorships, QR codes, branded store promotional items, free samples, and so on and so on.

Your ability to reach your market(s) – those groups of customers that make up the largest percentage of potential customers – will ultimately determine the techniques that will give you the best return on your investment. Choose wisely. But take note, everything you do to promote your store is a really good thing. Just do it, do it well and do it often.  •  by Doug Muldoon

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Avril opens new store in Quebec City

Avril opens new store in Quebec City

With great fanfare and many friends and industry colleagues in attendance, Avril Supermarché Santé opened its first store in the Québec City region (Levis, QC) on May 27.

According to Avril, the 20, 000 square foot Levis store becomes the largest of its kind in the region and represents an investment of $4 million. Like its Brossard, Granby and Longueuil locations, it offers organic and natural products, fine grocery, local and gluten-free products, certified organic fruit and vegetables, natural supplements and vitamins, natural and organic cosmetics.

Dining options include the Avril Café with 60 seats, offering breakfast, a daily menu, a sandwich and salad bar, smoothies and a delicious selection of desserts and snacks.  The first Crudessence counter in the Quebec City region offers organic, raw food.

Sylvie Senay and Rolland Tanguay, owners of the other three Avril Supermarché Santé stores, are the initiators of this project. “For a few years now, the people of the Québec region have been requesting
 a store through our website,” says Sylvie. “We noticed during Expo Manger Santé that the people of Quebec are aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.”

 “We offer a 100 per cent healthy and natural alternative to traditional supermarkets,” added Rolland.  •

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Margin for error

Margin for error

A big reason natural food and medicine took so long to become mainstream, as it is today, is that most of the growth was through word of mouth, either through family, a friend telling a friend, or from people working in a health food store.

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Will You Burn Bright or Burn Out?

Will You Burn Bright or Burn Out?

“Live Rust” album was, “It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.” For many, it could be a call to burn bright and passionately rather than resign ourselves to a complacent life of dull routine. I wonder, though, if many department managers across the country haven’t misread Neil’s message or the unwritten message known throughout your store. I encounter managers in many stores who have lost their vision and motivation.

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Hiring new staff: do your best to find the best

Hiring new staff:  do your best to find the best

At my store, we have been very fortunate in more ways than one. We have enjoyed being a small, family-owned and operated business for a long time. Outside of one part-time employee who has been with us for 10 years, we have not had to work with anyone other than immediate family in four years. We also haven’t hired anyone new in over seven years. In the retail world, I think this is quite abnormal and even unheard of. However, this all came to a crashing halt this past spring. We were given a year of notice, but it was still not enough. My brother decided to move on, and we were faced with only one option. We had to hire new staff.

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Best practices for performance evaluations

Employees have a right to know where they stand. Simply taking the time to meet one-on-one with an employee says, “You matter to me.” Although business literature is full of stories about how people hate performance appraisals, the employee surveys my colleagues and I have conducted at 200 natural food stores paint a different picture.

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Hosting regular in-store events

Hosting regular in-store events

Impress new customers and thank existing ones by hosting regular in-store even

Consider hosting a BBQ, pancake breakfast or even a ladies night. The themes really are endless and no matter what you think of – I’m sure you’ll have a vendor to support you. Be creative; come up with catchy names for the event and fun ads to promote it. Most importantly, get your staff excited about it. For as many staff as you have on payroll – that is the number of ambassadors you have for your store – you get them talking about it and the event is sure to be a success! Here are a few steps to start planning your first event:

Plan your theme. This could tie in with the time of year (summer BBQ) or events topical in your community (if there is a local summer fair, host a summer fair showcasing your local suppliers during that time).  You can really pick any theme and dates you like.  Test which days of the week work best for your store, ideally your busiest hours of the week so you can impress the most people in the shortest amount of time. Your event should be a finite period of time, two to three hours maximum.

Think of vendors to partner with.  Your theme will decide which items you’re promoting, which can help you narrow down which vendors to partner with.  Consider also asking a charity to participate with a portion of the event’s proceeds donated. You’ll want to pick vendors who have dynamic people to provide demos as well as great literature and samples to hand out. Vendors and charities can help to promote your event through their social media channels and with additional word-of-mouth advertising.

Create promotional materials. You’ll need to advertise your event in a variety of mediums.  Create in-store handouts so your regular customers are informed.  Consider mailing or emailing your best customers so they get a personal invitation from you. Utilize your website, e-news and social media to spread the word. Be sure to let people know it’s ok to bring a friend to the event – referral customers could be made! Lastly, post notices on community boards like Kijiji, your local TV station website and local newspaper – they often advertise community events free of charge. Remember, you want to not only thank your existing customers but create new ones, too.

Example of Event Planner

Theme: Ladies Night

When: Thurs, May 11, 7-9 pm (near Mother’s Day)

Feature Products: Natural skin care: supplements for skin, nail polish, local body care, organic chocolate, strawberries

Vendor/Items to demo/Contact List: list all you’ve invited based on the space you have to work with in your store

Charity: Local women’s shelter, contact is Jane, will set up table/signage and attend event

Special items for event: Single rose for each attendee, assemble swag-bags with vendor samples, order balloon bouquets for decorations, print coupons and rain checks.

Staff to work event: Mary, John, Bruce, Sue, Carla

Develop a checklist. If you keep a checklist of all vital information, you’re much more likely to produce a quality event with little-to-no stress for everyone involved.  Verify the items you’d like demonstrated with your vendors, what they’re bringing for supplies (table, sample cups, etc.) and the time you like them in-store for set up.  If you need samples for goodie bags in advance, specify that early enough so you’re not scrambling on the day of the event. Also verify that your inventory of the items that will be featured is sufficient and calculate your special price for the event. Stock lots of the feature items and print rain checks in case you run out.

Event day!

Ensure your best staff are working and the store is looking its best. Program your special pricing, have any decorations up and a plan where each vendor will be positioned to demo. The owner or manager can walk the floor and personally thank the customers for coming to the event and for their support all year long.  Offer up goodie bags as you walk around or have it marketed as ‘free gift with purchase’ and have them at the tills. (FYI: women love swag – offer a free gift and we’re there!)

Most importantly – have fun, it is an event after all.

Once you’ve done this a few times, you’ll have a checklist created for future events so nothing gets forgotten and the event really becomes ‘routine’ for you and you’ll be amazed at the reception you receive from your customers. They’ll be so appreciative. A little effort really does go a long way.  •

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Difficult customers

Difficult customers


In times of conflict, it’s incredibly important to keep a bright, smiley face.

Nobody wants them, but we all have them – customers who are on a mission to bring a stormy cloud into your day, regardless of whether or not you are personally responsible for their bad mood.

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Back to the Future

Sound familiar? Back To The Future? I am sure we have all seen the movie and enjoyed the silly possibilities and scenarios featured in it.  I picked this title for my column because just like the movie, sometimes we need to put ourselves in a position where we think ahead of time and then look back. Is that a bit weird?  Not really.

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Romance in the workplace

Romance  in the workplace

It happens all the time. Co-workers get attracted to each other and next thing you know….  Workplace romances can impact the productivity and morale of the protagonists and their co-workers. That impact is greater still when a supervisor and subordinate are involved. 

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Great expectations are a wonderful surprise

Great expectations are a wonderful surprise


 A conversation I often have with owners, general managers and produce managers these days concerns how to take their produce to the next level. My usual answer to the question is multi-layered, depending on where the department is at that moment.

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Health food store tours

Health food store tours

Take every opportunity to visit other health food stores.  Getting out into the marketplace to see what’s happening can really motivate you to adopt changes in your store.

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The Human Side of Disaster Preparedness

The floods that hit Alberta in June of last year were the costliest natural disaster in our nation’s history, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada—$1.7 billion and counting. And as one IBC official said, “While the monetary cost of the floods is huge, the emotional toll on Albertans is incalculable.”

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Competition is coming to town

  Do you remember those old Western movies where the settlers moving west would have to circle the wagons to better protect themselves from the arrows that seemed to be coming from all directions? Some stores may be feeling that way, as their once-safe marketplace now seems to field competition coming at them from all sides. 

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2014 And Beyond

The demand for natural food and natural medicine will continue to grow for decades to come.

• The natural and traditional grocery stores will experience ongoing consumer demand for organic foods. Mainstream grocery and drug will continue to create more space for natural health products. Natural health products may reach the tipping point over the next five years.

• In 2015, 65 year olds will outnumber all other ages, so in 15 years, the 80’s will be the predominant age in Canada…

• Boomers will want a better quality of life than is currently being experienced by 75’ers.  The majority are unhealthy, with brain disorders, bodily functions out of control, in pain or have a serious illness, and on 10 or more prescription drugs.  I believe at least 20 per cent of boomers will look to natural health products to ease their way through the aging process.

• Every day for the next 17 years, 10,000 people will turn 65 in North America.

• Home delivery for food and medicine will increase in coming years due to seniors unable to get out and about.

• Urban population is expected to grow dramatically as aging boomers move closer to amenities.

• How do you market to a nine second attention-span audience? Who has time to read an email over one paragraph long without their mind wandering? We live in an ADD techno- illogical society. Holding a consumer’s attention will be an ongoing challenge for marketers.

• The ability to stay connected to customers and remain relevant will be a major challenge as brand loyalty is becoming a thing of the past.

• Natural medicine is safer and proven as effective, in many cases, as pharmaceutical OTC drugs and prescription drugs. Though a slow process, I see more MDs, integrative clinics and hospitals using natural health products as the first choice of medicine and prevention.

• Next to boomers, there are more early 20 year olds. Over the next 15 years, they will be mid-30’s, have families and become the next major influencer of market trends. How do you message to them? They are a major reason sports nutrition is so big, with so much future growth!

• Facebook is the best retail promotion for some stores and this should continue to grow as we live in the time of connection. Connecting with your most loyal customers and communicating messages that assist their overall well-being, not just your bottom line, will resonate best with consumers of natural health products.  Give recipes, exercises, health tips.  A sales pitch is okay, but should only be in every four to five communications you send out.

• Stories will be the best form of promotion/communication as they keep a person’s attention and appeal to their emotions.

• Think – how can I best communicate with my community, the homes and businesses around your store where your customers work or live?  How can you make their lives better, easier, happier through the products and services you provide?

• I have no idea what will happen to traditional media as it becomes more difficult to hold a person’s attention, especially young people who are averaging seven hours a day on their handheld.  Perhaps one day we will truly position ourselves in the consumers mind with neurotransmitter billboard apps.

• Did you find 2013 growth not as expected?  Was it due to less Dr. Oz motivated sales?

• Natural health products will be sold everywhere - convenience stores, vending machines, hospitals…I can dream, can’t I?

• Your database is golden…so, treat it like that.

• Will you please text me when my product comes into your store?


   We are all in a business well-positioned for generations of careers to come…

   ‘I love what I do!’ is a statement I hear from pretty much everyone I meet in the industry.

   Sure, work has its dramas.  However, to work in a job where you help make a positive difference in people’s lives is a reward without compare.

   Happy Sales!  • 

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Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

You are a new retailer, or have simply never attended a CHFA trade show before, it's a worthwhile event to consider.  Attending a CHFA show can be a great experience and a lot of benefit to your store.

Spring is in the air and that means longer hours of sunshine in the day, more people out and about, and putting the cold winter behind us for another year. In terms of the Canadian health food industry, spring also represents something else, and that is CHFA West in beautiful Vancouver.

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Build the Crew Before You Build the Walls

Build the Crew Before You Build the Walls

When you're in the "expansion zone" there's more to think about than construction

You're in the "expansion zone" when every possible inch of sales floor space is filled, and even the ceiling has hanging baskets of product. It is amazing that you can move in your back room, let alone process orders. New products are coming out that your customers would buy if you could stock them, yet your customer count continues to climb.

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Bad apples in your workplace?

"One bad apple spoils the barrel." Intuitively we know this maxim is true. Research at the University of Washington Business School affirms it.

Will Felps, Terence Mitchell and Eliza Byington defined three types of bad apples:
• Slackers who don't do their share of the work
• Perennially unhappy pessimists
• Mean-spirited bullies

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CNHR News Podcast

cnhr radio hour

News, Views and Happenings in the world of Canadian Natural Health.

Check out this month's podcast here

Your customers have spoken.  The numbers are convincing: Canada’s natural health retailers turn to CNHR for your new products.  A survey conducted in June 2020 shows retailers read the ads and Product Profiles, and react to them.  They order products they’ve seen in CNHR.  They look for your new products in CNHR.  Reach your customers via CNHR by print, video and/or podcast.  Various opportunities available to fit any budget. 

• Launch your new products

• Support your sales team

• Be visible as stores re-focus and re-charge

• Stake your position in the “new normal”

• Reach more stores – from coast to coast

• Introduce your company to new potential customers • Combine CNHR’s print, video and podcast options


New!  Product profile package

Retailers want to see more of your new products.  So, we’re making it easier for you and them. 

Introducing our new Product Profile Package:  a three-pronged way to reach retailers by combining print, video and podcast.  You get all three!

PRINT:  Claim a spot on CNHR’s Product Profile pages, mailed to health food stores coast to coast, and read by over 10,000 retail store buyers, owners, managers and staff.

VIDEO:  This is new for CNHR – video product reviews.  You’ll get a 30 second review of your product with product image and voiceover.  Five products per video, then e-blasted to CNHR’s database, to be shared among staff and with the store’s customers.   

PODCAST:  Also a new feature.  Your product will get a mention on the New Products portion of the popular CNHR News Podcast, hosted by CNHR editor Bruce Cole and Deane Parkes.   Your company name, product name, a couple of lines, followed with your company contact information.

Three-platform exposure for your new products, delivered by CNHR, the trusted source of industry information retailers have counted on for 24 years.   Three platforms for $699.00

The Product Profile Package is FREE to all full or half page advertisers!

For more information please contact:

Phone: 800.663.6580