Canada's business magazine for traditional natural health retailers

Alberta retailers attend Deane Parkes’ business education sessions

retailers in deannes sessionThere was an excellent turnout in Edmonton for Deane Parkes’ retailer training tour in Alberta in early November.  He also spoke to retailers in Calgary and Red Deer.  Stores that were represented at the Edmonton talk included  Polar Bear Health, Simply Health, Stony Plain Wellness, Optimum Health, Vitality Health, Planet Organic, Morning Sun, Regent Health, Homegrown Foods, Healthmatters and Sangsters.  Deane’s education tour was a function of his role as an education ambassador for Natural Factors and Assured Natural Distribution.

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CHFA West: Feb. 20-23

chfa logoCHFA West 2020 is shaping up to be one for the record books, with many opportunities to reach further, together.  

CHFA is excited to once again host its Retailer Bus Tour on Thursday, February 20. The tour will include four or five stores located in North Vancouver and downtown Vancouver.  Retailers will benefit from the opportunity to see what other health retailers are doing first-hand to attract customers. 

Also on Thursday and Friday, you can attend the conference sessions which will include a variety of retail experts, talking about growing sales, remaining competitive and using social media to attract customers. 

Back by popular demand, the exciting Launch Pad competition is a must attend event, with eight finalists vying for the title of Most Innovative Product at CHFA West 2020. 

During the show on Saturday, February 22 and Sunday, February 23, don’t forget to visit Incubator Alley, new to CHFA West.  This part of the show floor is where small start-up companies and brands that are not widely distributed will be introducing their products to Canadian retailers for the first time.  

Online registration is open and retailers can register for free using the CNHR code W20M15.   For more information, visit

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For how long will you be dead?

for how long will you be deadBrian Tracy, the famous sales trainer, has a story that he tells about the importance of great questions.  Brian was having a meeting with a life insurance salesman who asked if he had enough life insurance.  Since he did not want to deal with this man, Brian assured him he did have enough insurance. As he was about to finish the meeting, the salesman asked Brian the question,“How long will you be dead for?  Because” he went on, “with the life insurance policy that you currently have, you are going to need to come back to life after six months to help pay the family bills….”

The reason I bring this up has nothing to do with life insurance, although especially in the early stages of a retailer’s lifetime, life insurance might be a good bet.  Unfortunately, most people in our industry don’t consider their untimely death. None of us want an early expiry date, and while we might hope to live to a ripe old age having accomplished all of our objectives, life has a funny way of throwing a wrench into the best laid plans of mice and men.   

Often, I have clients who want to work with me because they are preparing for their exit from the business.  Some have the foresight to make plans when they hear they have an illness or are approaching retirement age. Unfortunately for some business owners, they don’t have the right plans in place when they die and as a result, there is no one to help their family or employees negotiate through the traumatic days that follow the loss of an owner or founder. 

So, what would happen if your staff woke up one morning and discovered that you have died? Hopefully they will miss you and shed some tears, which means that you probably made a difference in their lives.  However, without a plan for emergencies, like death or even the disability of an owner or founder, companies that were once going concerns, stumble and begin the downward slide into oblivion. In the following weeks and months – as the family is grieving – it becomes apparent that the vision, direction and strategy that the owner brought is missing . Often key employees who doubt the future without a leader jump ship.  Without leadership, many businesses and their employees become paralyzed by indecision. In either case, the future is often bleak for the future of the store.  

While a life insurance policy might protect your family from some of the financial losses of your income, does it protect them from the financial liability of your businesses? To ensure that your business can survive you, there are a number of things that you might do.  

These include:

 1) Writing down a plan for the worst-case scenarios and discussing them with key staff members.  

2) Talking to trusted advisors including lawyers, accountants or mentors, about what your plans for the business are. 

3) Discussing or documenting some options for transitioning the ownership of your business should disaster hit such as: 

• who should your management team talk to? 

• will they need a business coach or fractional CEO to come in and help?

• what should they expect for leadership from your family? 

• how would you value the store if it needs to be sold? 

• what happens if they can’t sell the store? 

• how should they deal with family? 

 While the answers to these questions might be included in your will, having backup documentation in your operations manual or company safe, might be a great start as well. 

Not many people come back to life after being dead! Chances are you won’t either.  If you want to rest in peace before and after you die, it might make sense to come up with some concrete plans that position your business for the benefit of your family and employees long after your untimely departure. 


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How to Apologize to Your Staff

One attribute of a good leader is the ability to sincerely apologize for mistakes. This takes skill and experience. Sometimes an apology delivered with the best of intentions leaves the recipient feeling worse. 

Have you ever received an apology followed by “but”? “I’m sorry I forgot to check in with you first, but it was really busy and we were short-staffed.” The implication is that when it gets busy, I have higher priorities than my commitment to check in with you. Feel better now?

Then there’s blaming someone else. “I would have recognized your part in building the display but Jane didn’t tell me you worked on it.” In other words, if it weren’t for Jane, I would have done the right thing. Be mad at Jane, not me!

Most insulting of all is the insincere apology that takes no account of the apologizer’s role in the situation and blames the recipient. “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry you were upset.” 

How to do it right

So how do you make an effective apology? For answers, I drew on the wisdom of medieval rabbi and philosopher Maimonides and other guidance for Yom Kippur, the Days of Atonement. I also found insight here:, on teaching children about apology and forgiveness, and here:, a website that analyzes apologies in the media, history and literature. 

Based on these sources, I’ve generated some guidelines for leaders in the workplace.  See sidebar below.

Guidelines to apologizing

1. Say precisely what you’re sorry for. What did you actually do (or fail to do)? Instead of referring vaguely to “recent events” or “what happened,” describe those events. Use I statements and avoid the passive voice. (“I made the decision without getting your input first,” rather than “The decision was made without staff input.”)

2. Acknowledge why your actions were wrong. Did you break an agreement? How was the other person inconvenienced or harmed? Show you understand the impact of your transgression. Sometimes people want to feel understood more than they want an apology. (“I broke an agreement we had. You were expecting that I’d get your input first and I failed to do that.”)

3. If the original wrong was committed in public, such as forgetting to recognize someone’s contribution or erroneously accusing someone of a wrongdoing, the apology should be delivered in public, as well. (Granted, this is not easy!)

4. Say what you’ll do differently from now on. Use positive language to tell what you will do. (“From now on, when I need to make a decision that will impact your workload or your schedule, I will talk with you first.”)

Now that you’ve delivered your apology, the writers and bloggers are split on whether to ask for forgiveness. Some recommend making the ask as the final step of an apology, while others feel this puts the onus back on the person who has been wronged. I tend to side with this crowd. Also consider the power dynamics. Who is going to say no to their boss? 

Instead, I suggest making space to just listen. The technique of active listening could help here. Reflect back what you hear without arguing, defending or making excuses. But also be prepared for the recipient to make no more than a brief acknowledgement. 

Note that all these steps require face-to-face interaction. If you can’t apologize in person, try videoconference or phone. Tone of voice matters. Don’t expect an email or text to carry the freight of your apology.

Finally, what really matters is what you do going forward. The best apology is changed behaviour.

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Are you focused on inventory or selling

inventory or sellingAre you more focused on purchasing and inventory control than selling or merchandising?  One of the biggest improvements in health food retailing is the lower costs of software programs to manage and ‘control’ inventory.  Prior to having a proper inventory management system, one of the biggest challenges for retailers was having dead stock on the shelves and not being able to easily identify what stock was moving.

Since the 90s, I have preached the ’90-day rule’ of inventory management:  make sure at least one bottle is sold in 90 days from all stock on shelves.

Most stores without a good inventory management system often have 25 per cent plus dead stock, which means not ONE bottle has sold in the past 90 days.  So if you have $100K invested in inventory, $25K is wasted dollars on the shelf!

Now with the new technology, you can run a report daily or monthly, showing inventory movement. No product should be on the shelves for over 90 days. I know one store gets rid of the bottom 20 per cent slow sellers each month, and another store works to have 30 day turns, not 90!

As more retailers upgrade their systems to manage inventory, this will mean less product dollars tied up in slow moving items.  It will also make it easier for retailers to clean up shelves of dead stock.  As the algorithms track the movement of all inventory, I believe we will start seeing less product/brand selection offered in the stores with the focus on the products that sell consistently, exclusive to their business with strong vendor support (like mass market).

Suppliers may find retailers ordering less, more often or discontinuing brands that do not bring value and sell at shelf level.  Inventory management is vital to the success and profitability of a retail store so I understand why retailers have embraced and are focused on inventory management. 

However, what I am noticing is more attention being given to managing inventory turns than given to training floor staff on how to sell, serve customers and merchandise.  Of everything you do to influence your sales, number one must be customer service and number two is merchandising.

Hopefully as you continually improve the ability to manage each sku on the shelf, you are also making a similar – if not greater – effort to train the floor staff on exceptional customer service and merchandising or you just may find managing inventory becomes easier as you will not be selling as much.

Feelings, nothing more than feelings

The feeling a customer has when they walk out the door, hang up the phone, leave your website, visit your Facebook page, see your flyer, follow your tweets or Instagram determines whether they will come back to the store or follow your social media platforms.

Customer service is all about feeling.  We remember some of what we hear or see, yet recall 100 per cent of how we feel after any family, social or business interaction.

Do people feel like doing business with you and if so, do they feel like coming back? 

Watch for GMO ingredients

Meatless does not mean good for every body, human or planet!  GMO farmers must be doing a happy dance as veganism sweeps the shelves of natural and conventional grocery stores.

The food marketers for these large food producers are creating packaging that looks natural, organic and sustainable but a further look at the label often reveals ingredients full of GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, canola oil, soy or sugar beet - the four main genetically engineered crops.

Watch for GMO ingredients

It is becoming harder for conscious consumers to choose non-GMO food, even in health food stores, as food suppliers with profit as the main driver, find ways to hide and mislabel products to keep consumers confused and uncertain of where their food is coming from.

Follow and support activist Rachel Parent (;@RachelsNews), as she continues her mission to convince Health Canada to properly label foods containing genetically altered ingredients or the new CRISP-R technology. 

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Guelph Organic Conference: Jan. 23-26, 2020

guelph organic conference 2020The theme of the 39th annual @Guelph Organic Conference is ”Where Farmers and Consumers Meet.”  The 2020 version of Canada’s largest organic education and trade event is being held in the Guelph University Centre January 23 to 26.   “The conference welcomes organic growers, who can meet with leading processors, brokers, distributors and retailers,” explained conference manager Tomas Nimmo.  “Another major feature is that motivated consumers can directly contact the organic producers, to buy their products and form lasting relationships.”

The four-day workshop program includes 40 unique sessions, covering everything from farming on 2,000 acres to setting up a balcony garden.  The last two days of the conference features a free 150 booth trade show.    For more information, please visit

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Foodsmiths helps environment with new eco-friendly fill station

foodsmiths fill stationBill and Tammy Watts, co-owners of Foodsmiths in Perth, ON have introduced an eco-friendly fill station they recently developed and installed in the store.

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Reimagining Wellness

inside u health store

Steve Velthove and Dave Nelson have always had an idea they wanted something bigger than a health food store.

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Alpha Emulsified MCT Boost

mct boost assured naturalEnergy boost for coffee, shakes and more!   Start the day off with a kick of healthy fats! Alpha MCT Boost provides 100% coconut-sourced emulsified MCT oil – simply stir into coffee, juice, smoothies or tea to give them a rich, creamy and delicious boost of energy that is keto and paleo diet friendly. Use as a non-dairy, sugar-free creamer that mixes easily, no blender required. Zero mess or cleanup. Available in NEW Mocha Cream flavour.  Exclusive to health food retailers.       888/826-9625 

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Organic Tuscan Kale Vinaigrette & Marinade

bragg salad dressingA great-tasting, zesty dressing for all your leafy green salads, especially kale, and a flavourful seasoning for vegetables. It also makes a great marinade! This vinaigrette offers the sunny flavour of Tuscany with its unique blend of nature’s organic herbs, kale & Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar.

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Support for healthy nerve function

healthy feet and nervesAre you ready to put your best foot forward? Healthy Feet & Nerves from Terry Naturally CANADA helps support healthy nerve function, especially in the feet and hands. In addition, it provides support for healthy glucose metabolism. Pair this with Sucontral D and you’ll have a dynamic duo!     855/287-2646

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Comfortable, reusable, and eco-friendly

diva cup copyIntroducing Model 0: eco-friendly, reusable and perfect for those new to the world of periods! Ideal for active young people, Model 0 is a reliable period care solution for ages 18 and under.

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Apple cider vinegar, herbified

flora vinegarsFlora’s new Apple Cider Vinegar Wellness Shots are thoughtfully brewed in small batches in Burnaby, British Columbia. These daily wellness shots combine the highest quality, US-made apple cider vinegar with herbs and select botanicals to create four unique blends: earthy turmeric & cinnamon, spicy ginger & lemon flavour, fruity elderberry, and sweet red beet.

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95% dark chocolate 80g bar

theobromaTHEOBROMA Chocolat™ is proud to introduce the new 95% dark chocolate 80g bar!  Made with only 3 ingredients, the unique flavour of pure cocoa is truly nature at its purest. Indulge in the superior quality and intensity of finely selected organic cocoa beans in this prodigious and creamy chocolate recipe. Every bite reveals the richness of dark chocolate with a subtle fruity note for a perfect finish.

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Premium organic whole grains

nunweilersNunweiler's Flour Company is proud to produce a variety of premium, certified organic, non-GMO whole grains. From fostering strong relationships with local farmers that we know and trust, to perfecting our unique cold temperature milling process; we are committed to providing our customers with top quality grains that are packed with nutrients and quality.    Make the switch and taste the difference.

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Wilderness Retailing

wilderness retailing

This is a story about my good friend Rhonda Taylor.  Last year, she bought The Hazeltons Health Food Store (formerly Country Herbs) – along with her sister Brenda Parkes – in the very remote northern half of B.C.  (directly east of the Alaska panhandle!)

Rhonda and her partner Dave Marek, a retired wildland forest fire fighter who is now a certified ocean fishing guide, came upon the store while looking for a home in the Hazelton region.  Although it wasn’t for sale, owner and founder Lorna McLeod found in Rhonda a kindred spirit, the kind of person she thought would take care of her “baby,” the store she had founded and nurtured for more than three decades.

I first met Rhonda in early 1999 at her store, Vital Health in Creston, B.C.  Within a year or two of that, she sold the store.  To get a phone call from her last year saying she was coming back as a store owner made me happy, because to me, Rhonda is the epitome of a natural retailer: passionate, knowledgeable and great with people.  Plus, she has that retailer spirit and soul.   It’s been a year since she bought the store, so I thought you might enjoy a little tale about a woman who has settled in a wilderness paradise with her true love and her family.  Here’s a Q & A with my friend about her latest adventure.                     

CNHR: What is the population of Hazelton and surrounding area?

Rhonda: We have about 1,200 folks.  First Nations accounts for roughly 80 per cent of the population in this area.  However, we do draw a small amount of customers from Terrace (11,000) and Smithers (5,000), for those that enjoy a beautiful hour to 90 minute drive.

CNHR: What were the main reasons you decided to do this?

Rhonda: I moved to the area, because of a new relationship. We were looking for a home to buy and I was looking for something I loved to do.  I am also crazy.

CNHR: How long has this store been in existence? 

Rhonda: The Hazeltons Health Food Store has been around for 34 Years.  The person I bought the store from – Lorna McLeod – is an extraordinary woman. October of 2018 would mark her 33rd year of business. Back in 1985, Lorna and her husband Don set up business in their mobile home, with her cash register on her kitchen counter.  Eventually, they purchased an addition for the side of their trailer, but soon they outgrew that, too. Then the inspiration of building an independent building on their property turned into a reality. Today, decades later, the store is a gem to the Hazeltons.

CNHR: You mentioned the happiest you’ve ever been was in Creston.  What were the things that made you happiest?

Rhonda: It was the first time I realized what a control freak I am.  Being self-employed means being autonomous.  It means I get to take the blame or credit for whatever is happening.   

hazeltons health foodI absolutely LOVE/LOVED the customers.  There is something profound and beyond rewarding to have the privilege of helping someone help themselves.  To share their tears and triumphs. There is a special trust that you earn.  Seriously, how often do you get to just outright ask someone if their bowels are moving properly? You live through people's pregnancies, losses, divorces, engagements, graduations… all of life's experiences that make us human. If I was having a “feel sorry for me day,” there is always that customer that walks in with more courage and strength than I could ever muster in a life time – just to get out of bed.  Some folks are battling just to stay alive.

CNHR: You’ve said before that you love “all the moving parts” being a store owner brings. Maybe that’s part of what makes you happy?  

Rhonda: You are stretched to the limits on a daily basis, but it makes for great character building.   It is the daily Rubik's cube.  You simply cannot be linear.  Boredom is hard to come by.  I would agree, if something can hold my interest, it definitely makes me happy!

CNHR: Who else is involved in the store with you and what is everyone’s job/responsibilities?  

Rhonda: My partner Dave Marek has been a major support.  I have hired part-time help and Lorna comes in on Sunday and Wednesday afternoons.  

My mom Lynn Fleury moved here in late November, 2018. Over Christmas 2018, I convinced my sister Brenda Parkes to invest in the store.  She moved out in the spring. We haven't lived in the same province for over 20 years, so it is awesome working together.  We both bring different strengths to the table.  We all serve the customers, price and stock items.  Brenda’s son Sean Parkes has been invaluable for store appearance.  He makes sure the store is spotless.  He fills the bulk bins, packages bulk foods, lifts everything over 100 pounds. He keeps the grounds clean and tidy....cutting grass, sweeping, etc.  

The biggest job that we all do is engage the customers.  We have amazing visits and conversations.  This area is extremely colourful.  It supports a full spectrum of professions and passions.  The area is magic.  People help and work together, it isn't dog-eat-dog.  It is a true community!

CNHR: What are some of the things you’ve done since taking over?  

Rhonda: I have done a lot of renovations:  added windows, painted, and built a deck for the customers to sit in our park area and enjoy the view.  I have added a lot of different products.  As I have lived in major cities for the majority of my life, I like to bring "the big city" to me and fit it into this peaceful country lifestyle.

CNHR: What are the major challenges you’ve faced and how have you overcomed them? 

Rhonda: My greatest challenge has simply been to be myself.  It was important for me to approach the business in a way that was comfortable for me, but also reflective of me.    

Lorna was an icon.  She had some pretty massive shoes to fill.  She offered many products that were reflective of her lifestyle.  I too have my beliefs and had to be respectful to others, but also myself.  This meant that I did bring in things like organic and/or free-range meats and coffee.  The biggest change we have made is to bring in organic produce.  It was a selfish move on my part, but the area has embraced the convenience, especially during the winter months.  Out here in the woods, folks are not used to a lot of choices.  The people here are very honouring.  The most common comment we get is:  “Thank you for buying the store and being here!”  Most folks had the assumption that Lorna would just close up shop and the store would no longer be here. During our casual conversation when I first walked into her store, I expressed how much I missed my customers.  She said she just knew that I would take care of the people that she had taken such good care of for decades. 

CNHR: Any advice for retailers who are thinking of buying an existing health food store?

Rhonda:  When you want something and believe in something, nothing can stop you!  I happened to have an awesome friend that helped me with a loan, along with my amazing love interest, who believed in and supported me as well.  You have to be a bit crazy and creative in your thinking.  You cannot leave a lot of room for limitations.  

I don't think I would have felt as confident to start a store on a whim, but this store was well established and the whole situation just felt right.  There were too many magical moments to deny that this was the right decision for us. 

Story: Bruce W. Cole      Photos: Dylan Marek

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Writing your first blog

writing your first blogBlogging is successful when it’s done right.  It drives traffic, influences people, and develops that odd cult-like following. You’ve probably wondered if a blog could work for your store or maybe you’ve already decided that starting a blog is exactly what you need to do to grow your store’s business and customer loyalty.

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The 100 year retailer

Recently, a retail store in my community celebrated 100 years of operations.   There was a party, celebrations and even recognition from politicians for their years of service to the community.  I honestly don’t know much about the business except for the great service I have experienced as a patron over the years.

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Victoria’s The Vitamin Shop marks its 35th anniversary with customer event

Vitamin shop bruce reidThe Vitamin Shop, Victoria, BC  – one of Canada’s most iconic and successful health food stores – marked its 35th anniversary on September 20 and 21 with a celebration and consumer event. There were free samples, product demonstrations, cake and more. 

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Opening a second store? Consider impact on staff

carolee colter opening second storeWhen you open a second business location, there may be joy and excitement. But there may also be jealousy and feelings of abandonment. In times of stress and perceived scarcity, that “us versus them” tendency can raise its head among the staff in both locations. 

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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

Get into the hands of 10,000+ retailers

Reach 10,000+ natural health store professionals via CNHR Magazine.  CNHR is delivered by Canada Post six times per year to virtually every health food store across Canada.  Retailers are your true sales force.  So, get your product into more stores and get them selling for you.  

Remember, your first sale is to the retailers.  CNHR can get your message in front of them. Connect with the retailers who sell and recommend your product.

Put CNHR’s many resources to work for you:  Display ads, Product Profiles, Trade Talk news in CNHR Magazine along with Facebook, CNHR web page, podcasts, inserts, videos posted to our website, sending product samples to stores…we have the access to Canada’s natural health retailers.  Put our many resources to work for your company and products today.

 Katherine Stevens:   647/975-3370         Celange Potocki   905/869-4870

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