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Business Development - In with the new

Joanne Hill has rebranded and re-launched this Bramhall health store, transforming it into an award-winning success story

Amaranth was founded in 2008 by Alexandra Worsley, a homeopath and a chemist, under the name Alexandra Worsley Homeopathy. I joined in 2010, initially as a Nutritional Therapist and then as store and clinic manager.

In late 2012 Alexandra decided she wanted to move on, so I took the opportunity to buy the business. I knew that I wanted to make the store my own, but I also realised that it was important to do this gradually, so that our loyal customers understood the changes.

I have a degree in Retail Management, and a background working for retailers including WH Smith, Sainsbury’s and Mothercare. After having my first child, I retrained as a nutritional therapist. Running Amaranth, I can combine my past life with my newest passion. When I took over the store, I had lots of ideas about how I could improve the business, and I was keen to focus more on the nutritional side of things than on remedies and homeopathy. Here are some of the things that I focused on before, during and after the rebrand, and what I’ve learnt along the way.

Who we are and what we sell!

I think that it’s crucial when running a store – of any kind – to have a clear idea of what you want to do and be – and to make sure that your customers understand those things, too. I took a really good look at the store, and considered how we could build on its existing strengths and customer base, while clarifying the proposition, making it really clear to the customer what the shop was and what it sold. It’s important that new customers feel able to walk through the doors without being intimidated or feeling that the store isn’t for them.

We reviewed all the products in the shop, to see what was selling and what wasn’t, and to look at the profits that we were making on each line, and the turnover. I wanted to understand exactly why we were stocking each item that we had on the shelves. We need to be able to offer a choice to the customers, but we also need to know what products to look for and recommend if people come in with a specific need or problem. If we have products that aren’t addressing any of these needs, then we shouldn’t be stocking them.

The next step: a full rebrand

Once we had taken those first steps to clarify our proposition to ourselves and to our customer, it was time to take the next step, and rebrand the store. This is a one-off opportunity to choose a name and a look that really reflect the life of the store, so it was vital to get it right.

I decided that we needed to rebrand to give the store an identity more in keeping with the store that we wanted to become. We worked with a local Bramhall design agency (Dznir) to come up with a name and a logo. Our wish list was to find a name that reflected the core of our business, specifically with regard to our expertise in nutrition and also the natural plant ingredients in our natural skincare and beauty. We also wanted a name and a brand that told customers that we offered treatments.

Amaranth is perfect. It is a flower and a nutritious grain, the oil from the grain is an ingredient used in natural skincare. The Amaranth is also known as the flower that never fades.

To let our customers know about the name change, we sent out an email to everyone on our database (around 3,000 customers), as well as publishing an article in a local magazine. We engaged in social media with a new Facebook page, and some activity on Twitter. Because we’d already done a lot of the groundwork in changing the layout of the store and the stock, the relaunch didn’t require any major shutdown; we did it on a Sunday, replacing the signage and the window vinyls. We are very lucky in that we have glass windows at the front and down one side of the store, and Viridian provided some great signage to help customers see what we do before they even come through the doors. Pukka have been brilliant too, giving us their teas to offer to our customers for free.

Keeping your customers, and finding new ones

The most nerve-wracking thing about changing a store is finding a way to attract a new base of customers and to grow the business without losing or alienating loyal customers.

We’ve been really pleased with the way our customers have responded to the new name and feel of the store. We ensured that we communicated with our existing customers through our database to let them know about the new name, which I think helped, and we also invited some of our best customers to our re-launch party. We have noticed that we attract a different kind of customer now. We have lots of younger people coming in, and people who are interested in a healthy lifestyle in general, whereas before the name tended to attract people who were more specifically interested in remedies and homeopathy.

Harnessing trends

While it’s important to have a core of products that you know will sell well, I think it’s very important to be aware of changing trends and to ensure that you cater for them – especially when they can be good for your business.

At the moment, there is a growing trend for ‘clean eating’, with bloggers like Ella Woodward promoting the benefits of natural, healthy food. In response to this, we have put our superfoods and healthy cooking ingredients in the side windows so that they are visible from outside, and that is definitely attracting the kind of customer who is curious about cooking and eating more healthily. As a result we’ve increased our food offering, and have also collaborated with a local Bramhall bookshop, Simply Books. They did a window display of Ella’s book and some of our ingredients, and we did one of our ingredients and their copies of her book! It worked really well, and it was great to support another local business and get their support in return. I feel that the new generation of healthy cooks is very positive, as they are offering people a real, liveable alternative to eating lots of sugar and unhealthy foods; things that are easy and delicious but not boring. People are realising that they don’t just have to give up everything tasty and eat nothing but grilled chicken and broccoli for the rest of their lives!

Use what you've got

We are very fortunate to have such great therapy rooms, and that is an important part of our business. Part of our strategy is for each part of our business to support the other. We have customers who primarily come in for treatments, and buy the odd product, and those who primarily come in to shop, but might go for the odd treatment. But what we find is that if a customer has a treatment they will usually come back for more, and, because of the relationship that they build with the therapist, they often become very loyal to us.

We want to offer a holistic service to our customers, so our staff know that if someone comes in looking for a product for skin problems, for example, they can offer them advice on foods, nutrients and skincare as well as to let them know that if they want more in-depth help they can book a nutritional therapy consultation or a skincare consultation.

Events and community involvement

Health stores are an important part of any community, and are uniquely placed to offer a service and build relationships in the local area. We think it’s really important that we are a focal part of our community, not just a business. Part of that is getting involved in community events and offering our support. I am the Activation Partner locally for the Support for Independent Retail campaign, and have helped organise their Indie Easter event for the last few years, which involves going around local businesses and getting them involved, and printing out maps for the Easter trail. I also think it’s really important to build relationships with other local independent retailers, so that we can all work together and support each other.

In Bramhall, we formed a group called Indie Bramhall, which now has nine stores that are actively involved. We do a number of activities, but one which was very successful was spending some time working in each other’s stores, to get an idea of what the other businesses do and what’s important to them. Amaranth is also involved in Oldham Cancer Support’s Back to the Future Campaign, and helps out with the committee for the Bramhall Together Trust, and the events that they organise in the community.

I’m really proud of our store, and of the role we play in making Bramhall a nice place to live and shop, and I hope that both our store and our community continue to thrive.

Joanne's top tips for a store rebrand

  • Take your time – don’t make any rushed changes you may have to change again later
  • Consider your customers – As well as attracting new ones, you need to keep the ones you already have
  • Clarify your proposition – Make it very obvious to your customers exactly what you offer as a store
  • Play to your strengths – If you have great windows, use them – and let your customers know if you offer treatments, too
  • Engage with your community – A good health food store isn’t just a shop, it has the potential to be a hub for your community

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