Canada's business magazine for traditional natural health retailers

Deane Parkes is an advisor, educator and creator of consumer demand to the natural product industry.  He gives seminars, consults to retailers and suppliers, develops sales and marketing stategies, and assists in business leadership development through his company Act Natural Corporation - Free Range Thinking.  Contact him at...

Deane Parkes is an advisor, educator and creator of consumer demand to the natural product industry.  He gives seminars, consults to retailers and suppliers, develops sales and marketing stategies, and assists in business leadership development through his company Act Natural Corporation - Free Range Thinking.  Contact him at


Women serving women

women serving womenSeventy five per cent of health decisions are made by women.  This according to Faith Popcorn, author of Power of the Purse.  I’ll add this: 90 per cent of people who serve customers in natural food stores are also women.

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132 Hits

Fail to win

fail to winFailure is the quickest way to success. The faster you fail and learn from your failures, the faster you will determine a way to succeed.

Thomas Edison is a classic example. When he was asked if he was discouraged after attempting thousands of times to invent the light bulb, he replied “No, I am thousands of times closer to making it work.” Passion with persistence overcomes the fear of failure.

A recent study made to fail.  There were three groups


1. Business people

2 .Engineers

3. Kindergarteners

Each group was given spaghetti, marshmallows and duct tape. The objective was to build the highest structure to hold marshmallows.

They had 15 minutes to discuss among each other and 18 minutes to build. The kids won. The engineers came in at a close second and the business folks came in at a distant last.

Why did kids win over educated, experienced adults? Kids started immediately putting it together, failing over and over, until they got it. The engineers took some time to discuss but then started failing. Meanwhile, the business folks sat around discussing it so by the time they started, it was too late to learn from their mistakes, leaving them far behind.

So perhaps instead of sitting around ad infinitum in a “bored” room with the management teams discussing the annual sales plans, strategic initiatives, sales marketing objectives, competitor’s activities, budgeting proposals, and appeasing the bean counters so no one looks bad - Just Do It!!!

Listen up!

The ability to listen has been proven to build trust, lower sales resistance, build self-esteem and heal. A feeling of trust is the key to long-term customer engagement. But how do you listen? When a customer is speaking, make sure the spotlight is on them, not you.

Questions combined with active listening increases sales and customer retention. Ask questions to clarify the need of the customer. For example: “Do you want a therapeutic or preventative strength natural medicine? Have you been on a cleanse before? Have you used XYZ? Are you on medication?”

These types of questions help you quickly identify an effective choice so the customer is satisfied with results. It also gets the customer speaking, which allows you to listen attentively, creating an energy of trust and respect. With mindful practice to listen better, you will notice positive results in your personal relationships, and in your overall wellbeing.

I understand in today’s high-traffic stores, engaging customers is becoming less and less possible. Yet it is the foundation of our industry – to share the unique benefits of the products we sell.

Look how difficult it is to keep up with all the new products on the market with a wide variety of ingredients from all over the globe. Is it organic, free trade, non-GMO, ethical, gluten-free, grass fed, vegan, paleo, local, etc….

The “interNUT” is full of nonsense on natural heath products which as you know brings in customers with all sorts of ‘ideas’ about natural health. Some sound whacky and some are intentionally created to deceive.

Most stores have well-trained staff with accredited nutritional expertise to help guide the consumer to make a good choice within the ever expanding natural lifestyle movement. Yet sharing knowledge is not the best way to build trust.

The words you use during a conversation with the customer have little effect on building trust or engagement. Some studies suggest only a seven per cent effect.   Your tone of voice and body language speak far louder than words of nutritional advice in building long-term customer relationships.

In Whatever Arises Love That by Matt Kahn, he has these loving words on listening: “When human interactions become a way of practicing self-acceptance by treating others with more patience, kindness, and respect, a constant need to be heard drifts into listening as an act of love”.

I believe the business that listens best will become the trusted voice of natural health in the local buying community.

   Happy sales!

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435 Hits

The Recommender

Perhaps the most important role in natural retailing is the role of the recommender... the person who helps choose which product will bring the greatest benefit and value to the end user, the consumer.

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1105 Hits

The Core Shopper

I believe the core shoppers of health food stores amount to about 15 per cent of Canadians.  The core shoppers are fully engaged with the natural health food store lifestyle.

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1231 Hits

Sales. profit, inventory

The three key areas to focus on in order to thrive are sales, profit and inventory.  Sales is generally the first focus of a business because without sales, there is no business. 

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1356 Hits

Lead with your heart, manage with your head.

Lead with your heart, manage with your head.

While shopping at my local health food store not so long ago, I struck up a conversation with a fairly shy young woman about what she was demoing. 

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3621 Hits

Be the Oz effect

Be the Oz effect

Hearing the ‘Oz’ effect has slowed which has had some impact on overall sales. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) put him in his place!

So where did the Ozites go? Back to the land of OZ? Not quite…they went back to their cozy homes in your community, the eight miles around your store where 80 per cent of your business comes from. (One retailer said he walked the eight mile radius to get a real perspective of his business community.  Good idea!)

The Oz effect is based on basic marketing of natural health products 101 – sell the solution, NOT the product. He was able to do it on the strongest branding media - TV.

I have heard Oz does not bring in ‘our kind of customers.’ However, with a potential of purchasing $50,000 in their lifetime of natural products, I’d sure be trying everything to get them into ‘our kind’ of lifestyle.

As a retailer, I always included in the budget to run a monthly ‘advertorial’ style, solution-based article in the local community paper.  Print still works to bring in new customers while the advertorial positions your store as a solution-based resource for their health.

Other retailers have had success with their own radio show, with some retailers having become local celebrities with their shows.

TV is often not in the budget but if possible, it may be a good place to run ads during the Oz show.

Remember when using your co-op dollars to not spend it all on discount price flyers.  Make sure to build your brand on solutions as well.  No one complained about the price of raspberry ketones. They were just upset if we did not have stock.

Natural health resource center…

Quite a few people have told me recently how customers come in for answers to their health questions, then leave to buy product elsewhere.  I know this is tough.  However, it does show that you are seen as ‘the’ natural health resource in your community.  Do not take that position lightly.  Play it up.  Make sure they leave with solution literature on a product or service only you sell. 

Be the Oz.

The recommenders – it never ceases to amaze me the dedication, care and quality of people who work in the health food stores. Many of you have worked in the same store serving customers for 10, 15, 20 or more years. Think of all the lives you have changed…think of how many more in your community could benefit from the solutions you sell…be the Oz.

The two ads included are an example of the kind of advertising that built multi-billion dollar corporations.  These would be highly illegal today, yet the billions made on deceptive advertising created an epidemic of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.   Now, some of these mega corporations control most of the organic packaged goods business.  Sorry, but I always find this stuff interesting, although twisted.


If a million dollars weighed 20 pounds, a billion dollars would weigh 20,000 pounds.   Let’s say a supplier to health stores does $10 million/year or 200 pounds of business, statin drugs ALONE do over $20 billion in business or 400,000 pounds of business!  One company that makes statins and other suspect remedies does four million pounds of business!!

With that kind of poundage, you can create major Oz effects to the point medical doctors think everyone should be on statins from birth, …like COLA…and do it in a VERY convincing manner.  Take them or you will die…and they believe it, as the doctors also thought cigarettes were healthy…why?...because a sales rep told them.  The College of Physicians needs a wakeup call!

 Margin of error

Instead of only finding ways to increase sales, make sure you are always looking for ways to increase margin. One per cent on a million dollars is $10,000, which goes a long way to covering expenses.  I understand price is being driven down as NHPs are sold everywhere and becoming more commoditized.  I suggest you brain storm with each department on how to raise margins while maintaining sustainable sales growth.  Perhaps have a contest between departments on who can raise margin the most while maintaining sales. Your margin is vital to the sustainability of your business.  Keep the focus on raising and maintaining margin as much as you do on sales!   Happy sales…• 

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2116 Hits

CNHR News Podcast

cnhr radio hour

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

Check out this month's podcast here

July/August Issue


It is the once-a-year issue of CNHR where we turn the spotlight on to our industry suppliers. We share your stories of innovation, determination and creativity in bringing your products to market. It is the opportunity for suppliers to show and tell how they support the natural health retailers.

What is the "deal?"

It is our best offer of the year: When you buy a full or half page ad, you get a FREE full or half page to tell your company’s story. In this issue, our editorial is your company story.

Contact: Candace Sicari - or Katherine Stevens -

Community Board

Watch here for Job Postings, Wanted Ads, For Hire, etc. To add, contact Donna

Check out the Community Board