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Nutter’s Everyday Naturals in Prince Albert, SASK

nutters everyday naturalsThere is something you need to know about Janine Favreau: after 34 years as the owner and operator of Nutter’s Everyday Naturals in Prince Albert, SK, she is still as energized, focused, driven and dedicated to her business as she was when she opened the store in a blinding October blizzard all those years ago.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is something you need to know about Janine Favreau: after 34 years as the owner and operator of Nutter’s Everyday Naturals in Prince Albert, SK, she is still as energized, focused, driven and dedicated to her business as she was when she opened the store in a blinding October blizzard all those years ago.

So, it should come as no surprise that Janine recently undertook an extensive expansion of her store.  At this point in her career, rather than slowing down, she is picking up her pace and taking steps to make her store better.

Janine explains how the expansion opportunity presented itself: “Our next-door neighbour of over 20 years moved to a new location in the city, freeing up a 12,000 sq. ft. commercial space. Our lessor allowed us to get the extra 2,750 sq. ft. we wanted.”

Janine had long visualized how she was going to use the extra space.  “When the deal was finalized, we created wider aisles for a better customer shopping experience and we expanded our HABA section to accommodate more products.   We also expanded our vitamin section so we could create more effective visual merchandising and product displays.” 

Nutter’s PA pulled off the amazing feat of remaining open during the expansion.  “Construction happened behind the adjoining wall,” she said.  “After the dividing wall was removed, poly was hung to prevent dust from migrating while finishing work was being done prior to opening up the new space.”

Smooth expansion

The expansion itself actually went text-book smoothly:  there were no issues obtaining permits from the city and really, the biggest concern was a delay in receiving the new plexi-glass bins for bulk products from the supplier.  Janine credits her husband Ron for being mostly responsible for the seamless process.  “He has extensive experience as a contractor, and he headed the renovation project. Our relationship allowed us to brainstorm ideas and plans without being restricted by business hours.  He was instrumental in making this renovation happen.  The fact is I wouldn’t have taken this on if I have had to work with an outside contractor.”

The final result of the expansion has struck a chord of appreciation with Janine’s customer base.  “It warms my heart whenever customers come into the store and express how beautiful the new look is and comment on the openness of the store, or how we have expanded our product selection. I couldn’t have been happier with the response from our customers.  The support from the community has been unbelievable.”  Her instincts were right: since the expansion, she is witnessing substantial growth.

Janine holds a place in the Nutter’s history books: she was among the first wave of Nutter’s franchisees in 1984, the same year Nutter’s began franchising.  She is also the company’s longest-serving franchisee (“But not the oldest,” she adds with a laugh.) 

Like many in our industry, Janine didn’t begin her career with a goal of becoming a natural health retailer.  However, her early choices helped lay a foundation for her future as a storeowner.  Prince Albert born and raised, she obtained a teaching certificate from the University of Saskatchewan, and then entered the financial world, accepting a position with the Royal Bank of Canada.  Both professions would serve her well as a storeowner.

It was her husband Ron who first sparked the idea of owning a health food store.  “He is an enthusiast for health and wellness and he would visit the Nutter’s Medicine Hat location when we used to live in that area. Fate brought an opportunity for him to work with a contractor to build a newly franchised Nutter’s location.  After Ron’s involvement with that project, he knew there was an opportunity waiting for us to buy our own franchise.” 

They secured a Nutter’s franchise, found a location in Prince Albert to build and soon after, they were headed back home to Prince Albert.  Ron handled the construction of the leasehold improvements and all store merchandisers and fixtures.

Janine opened in a competitive market, even back in 1984.  She recalls there was already a health food store in PA.  “And just two months before we opened the Nutter’s, a bulk food store opened that looked identical in colour and layout to our store.”

Yet, she says, everything seemed to fall into place for her. “Nutter’s was a success from the day we opened and keeping up to the workload was our biggest challenge.  Since 1984, I have seen nine other health food/bulk food stores close their operations.” 

Prince Albert – population 34,000 – is Saskatchewan’s largest northern city, and is known as ‘the gateway to the north.’  Farming is the biggest industry in the region. The region also has three penal correction centres, including a federal penitentiary.  Being 140 kms north of Saskatoon, Prince Albert is not really on the way to anything, so Janine’s business does feel the effects.

 “Since we are off the main hub, shipments are interlined – meaning transferred between shippers – which usually results in higher freight costs and delays in deliveries. Also, due to the distance in driving, we do not see the industry sales reps as much as we would like to.”

Finding staff

One of the other issues of living in the northern portion of the province, admits Janine, is finding qualified team members.  “It has always been challenging to find knowledgeable, educated staff who are familiar with natural health.  Many of the young people of this area head to the university in Saskatoon, so it reduces the number of qualified candidates for us to select from.”  

That said, Janine has managed to find some good people over the years, and many have had a lengthy stay with the store.  “Connie Johnson, my assistant manager, has been here 18 years. Vi Pelletier, one of our vitamin/supplements advisors, joined us 16 years ago.  Berneice Polowniak is in charge of our gift tray production, and has been with me 19 years.  Every new staff member I hire, I tell them, ‘We are a destination…people come here for a reason.’  So we serve them to the best of our ability. To this day, I continually boast to my staff and sales reps that we have the most pleasant customers in any retail business. The support of the community is so humbling.”

Successful advertising strategy

To build her business over the years, Janine has wisely used a proven retail marketing practice: positioning herself as the trusted face of the store.  “Since 1995, I have actively done advertorials in the local newspapers, with my photo to market myself. As times are changing, I have also incorporated ads with the on-line newspaper. And to reach more customers, we have recently been sending out my ads via electronic mail.  By marketing myself with the photo, my customers know they are truly getting the facts when they read the article.  I keep the copy brief, writing it more in a bullet point style, to make it easy for people to read.  I’ve had great success with those articles.”

Janine’s hard work has not gone unnoticed.  In 2014, she was honoured to be the inaugural recipient of the Samuel McLeod Business Award for Prince Albert’s Female Business Leader of the Year. Nutter’s Prince Albert is a repeat winner of People’s Choice awards and five year winner of the Prince Albert Best of the Best award.

The biggest enemy Janine faces seems to be time.  “The hectic day-to-day operations tend to limit my face-to-face interaction with customers at the store. Also, by addressing an increasing workload, I sometimes feel I am missing other opportunities.”  

That said, she is always looking for ideas that will help her business.  “We are so different from other Nutter's operations: the majority do not carry as extensive bulk foods and specialty gourmet foods sections that we do, which is another business in itself, separate from the supplements and natural foods. Also, we are one of only two locations that handcraft our own candy and nut trays, which is a very big part of our business during the festive season. I have to hire another six employees who come in the beginning of November and construct candy and nut trays until around December 22. This, too, is basically another business in itself.” 

To put the icing on the cake, Janine wholesales bulk Christmas confectionery and nuts to approximately 30 schools and organizations, roughly 17,000 lbs. of product.

Advice for other retailers

During her years in business, Janine has determined that being successful is based primarily on two things: liking what you do and working hard at it.  “I didn’t take my first full week of holidays until my tenth year.  It has never felt like work to me, even after 34 years.  I am so focused at work, but I had to be here to make it work.  For all the time and hours I have put in, I couldn’t have done it if it wasn’t enjoyable.  A new business needs time and dedication…it is a must.  You have to be there – in the store, hands on – to be in business.”

She has developed a system at her store to ensure customers enjoy an outstanding shopping experience.  “We put utmost importance on customer service and that is why our staff is trained to acknowledge and warmly welcome customers as soon as they walk through the door. Product knowledge training and hands-on product experience are consistently being done to make sure that our staff can give valuable information to customers. Further, we believe in promoting positive customer shopping experience by engaging all five senses by doing the following:

  • • Putting up attractive, clear and organized displays and signage (sight)
  • • Playing upbeat and relaxing music while retailing the DVD that is currently playing (hearing). I have sold well    over 1,800 DVDs over the years.” 
  • • Having the bulk business which leads itself to a wonderful aroma of spices and herbs. We also have       aromatherapy diffusers running in the HABA section which feature baking scents (smell).
  • • Having product demos and testers so customers get to experience new items (taste and feel).

“It is all about providing outstanding customer service, a knowledgeable trained staff, quality and competitively-priced products, specialty items unique to our store and having ‘chameleon qualities’ to keep up with changing times/needs.  These are the key factors to a successful retail business.”

 

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