This growth has resulted in the addition of many items not carried by the store previously. “Our food department definitely got bigger,” explained Carla, “which gives us the room to focus on bringing in new product lines and more specialty items. We added fresh produce, fresh meats, bakery, fresh salads, and ready-to-go food items.
“We have more room to expand the lines we are excited about and display them with more facing, giving them exposure. In the past, many supplements were getting lost in the clutter. Also, by adding the fresh salads, and expanding our juice and shake bar, it has helped us use the excess produce, which leaves us with less waste.”
During the major renovation – which resulted in knocking a 30 foot hole in a wall to incorporate the unit next door on the south side – Health Wise closed its existing store and downsized into the empty unit next door on the north. Although it did create extra work for all team members, it had some bonuses, explained Carla. “The temporary location was amazing. Not only did we continue to stay open during the renovation, our sales soared. We also gained a bunch of new customers. When we moved into the temporary store, we featured the food items at the front of the store, the bodycare along the windows and the supplements in the back. We had customers who would not normally set foot in a “health food” store become interested by the food, or the beautifully packaged bodycare items while passing the windows. The regular customers also enjoyed the change. It gave them a chance to see items they usually did not see. They said they normally come in and go directly to their products, and then leave. They were often overwhelmed by the selection. With their regular items in different locations, we were able to talk more with our loyal customers and interest them in other items they were too intimidated to look for themselves. It gave us a better relationship with our current customers.”
Julie concurred. “This was a crazy big job, we could not have pulled it off without such great staff. They did such a good job merchandising the temp store that people who had seen us for the first time thought it was permanent, and commented it was ‘such a lovely store.’ Not bad for moving in one night.”
Work on the addition commenced around Labour Day and concluded just over a month later. “Equipment delays unfortunately dragged things out some,” explained Julie. “I know we had planned on being in the temp location for a week or so and it was over a month that we ended up being there.”
Looking back, Julie and Carla say ideally they would have preferred to close the store for a day or two during the move back from the temp location, allowing them to properly train staff on the new equipment and procedures, and letting them re-acquaint themselves with the new locations of products.
All the hard work has resulted in tremendously positive feedback from customers, reports Julie. “Our existing customers have been incredibly supportive. They have been waiting for something like this, without having to shop in six different stores or leave the city completely to get the selection we offer. New customers have been very positive as well. We were known very much to be a supplement store in the past. With the expansion, people who are more interested in food have been coming in regularly to check out our organic meats and organic produce.”
“Many customers agree on the same thing,” said Carla, “It’s nice to have a one-stop shop. Many Wellanders have recently become unemployed, thus bringing the city’s moral down. People are excited about our new growth, because it shows the city still has lots to offer.”
• story/photos B. W. Cole
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