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Challenging times call for a fresh approach

Ray Hill
Founder and Secretary of the Health Food Institute

"We are living through difficult times. It makes one realise how nice it was pre-2020.

"From the Health Food Institute’s (HFI) point of view it was ticking along favourably. Just as many retailers felt the pinch so, too, did health food retailers from the effects of Covid, not necessarily from the disease but customers’ fear of it. Although many continued to keep their shops open a number called it a day and closed.

"Those that remained open had good days and bad ones, but the outcome generally, as we get ready for Christmas 2022, is up in the air. Will it be as usual, or will energy bills, higher costs of mortgages, the PM’s/Chancellor’s budget and the seemingly ever-spiralling food prices impact on health stores’ festive sales? We’ll see!

"I can only hope the new Prime Minister and his Chancellor of the Exchequer do not suffer from similar behaviour to that directed toward the previous incumbents. It is extremely disappointing to listen and read the disparaging comments made from some of the front and back benches.

"I say this, not because I have any allegiance to any party. I voted in an election just once and never again. Why? Because I concluded many of the public are influenced by what is in it for them or for their party’s manifesto, which doesn’t often manifest. Then many of the winning party members, once in their seats, often appear to be more interested in how they can remain there rather than always focusing on what may be best for the country. It may be a good idea if legislation is put in place confining the election of their leader to the sitting party MPs just as the HFMA, Health Stores UK (NAHS), HFI and most other businesses do. After all, they should be best placed to decide who is the best person to fill the top job. Which has just happened.

"Incidentally, with the NAHS’s new name, does that now include Holland and Barrett should they wish to apply for membership, I wonder?

"Back to business. It is, perhaps, not the best time to announce the HFI’s plans for moving forward when health store retailers are having to cope with the energy, labour and stock rising costs. But training one’s staff is vital in order to generate additional consumer spend, simply because customers respond positively when information is given confidently with an air of assurance. That comes when the person has the authority of a professional training facility behind them.

"What the HFI needs, like many training institutions, is the wherewithal, both in time and money, to ensure it can give more students the service required for success. We are looking forward to launching a scheme within the next couple of months that will provide an opportunity for our wider industry to gain sales momentum and provide additional support for the HFI. Should it prove successful for both parties it will encourage more owners of health stores to participate in the HFI training courses at a more favourable cost.

"A benefit for suppliers to the trade, the retailers and the HFI."

Please note the HFI’s new address is P.O. Box 10978, Nottingham NG2 9XG, tel 0115 9234 534 or 07582 134470, email [email protected]

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