This issue, I interview Mr. Donald Cranston. Donald has been doing this even longer than I have, so stand by for plenty of wisdom!
Alain: Thanks so much for taking part in this series, Donald. First off, let’s make sure our readers know a little about you and Nutters. Can you give us an intro please?
Donald: I’ve been in this role as a family-owned business since 1984, so 35 years. I was asked by my uncle to invest in and join Nutters. He and his partner were building Nutters as a bulk food concept in Medicine Hat. I was also looking at a Nutters franchise for myself in Calgary where I lived. But my uncle’s partner wanted to sell his interest in the company, so I jumped at the opportunity to become an owner in a new company, and to work with family. I came out to Medicine Hat and our team started building Nutters from six stores, and now we have 24.
There have been tremendous changes over that time period. Over the years, we have carefully adapted to a quickly changing retail market.
Alain: I started in 1985, so you beat me by one year. Indeed, there have been so many changes over that time period.
Donald: Retail is consistently changing. You have to adapt, you have to innovate, you have to figure out what your core strengths are and how to succeed with those strengths.
Alain: Thanks for this intro. The next question is what are some of the top three to five factors that – to you – make for a win-win relationship with vendors?
Donald: No doubt, on-going collaboration is the key; building our business together in a long-term relationship. Other factors include innovation in product development, staff training and field support staff. Most of our locations are in rural areas, so we really appreciate our sales representatives helping us on sales days, product/dinner trainings and overall working with us to get better. The vendors that have helped us grow the business are still with us after 35 years.
Alain: I came to know Nutters back in 2001 when I was doing consulting work with Prairie Naturals. I was so amazed at the Nutters welcoming and partnering approach.
Donald: We work hard at our relationships with our vendors. We need to work together on trouble-shooting, sales support, promotional planning, strategic buying and other operational matters. We highly value our working relationships with the likes of Deborah Callbreath, Deane Parkes, Jean Robertson and other marvelous individuals that have helped us grow our business and be better connected with our customers.
Alain: I am sure most store owners and staff would agree that it’s all about working together. Our third question is this: Can you share an example of a great vendor or great story?
Donald: I mentioned Jean Robertson earlier. She was our business development contact for Natural Factors at the time. Back in 1992, we invited her to a Nutters franchise conference at Kananaskis. We had so much fun. We were so green about the vitamin and supplement business at the time. She was the inspiration to help us get in the health and wellness side of the business.
Jean not only helped educate us on the vitamins and supplements opportunity, she helped mentor me and our company along the way. It wasn’t just about selling Natural Factors products. It was about properly entering the category with product selection, merchandising, meeting customer needs, and how to train our staff. I’ll never forget how important Jean has been to our success.
Jean still sends me the odd email about trending information, merchandising, how to connect with our customers, product quality, efficacy and more. She’s always thinking about us. That really resonates with us and I can’t thank her enough.
Alain: Thank you very much Donald. Thirty-five years of wisdom on a one-pager is not an easy task, but I think we have the most important stuff covered.
In later issues, we’ll be asking other industry experts for their views on win-win. Opinions will most likely vary and even conflict. But it’s always guaranteed to be food for thought.
• Adapt to a quickly changing market
- Ongoing collaboration
- Product innovation
- Staff training
- Field staff support
- Vendors that help us get better