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Friendly, knowledgeable, local and trustworthy

These are the key characteristics of retailers that will emerge strongest from current crises. And they just happen to be the hallmark of most health food stores in the UK and Ireland.

We’ve raided several recent reports on how retailers should position themselves as unhelpful obstacles roll in one after the other like waves on the shore.

One that caught our eye was by Critizr, the customer interaction platform running the ‘Proud of My Store’ collective (

Its section on Health and Beauty summarises: “It’s no surprise that well-trained store teams provide the best customer experience.”

And CEO Nicolas Hammer drives home the point about working within a community: “Local connections, local relationships and local knowledge, no matter how big your brand, how many stores you have or how compelling your digital presence, [are] most important. Tapping into the power of local is the magic dust that builds brilliant teams, loyalty, sales and growth.”

“The proof is in a negative finding – the report quotes a YouGov survey which shows 39% of health and beauty shoppers have intentionally chosen not to return to a store due to in-store staff not offering a good enough service. Where a chain of stores is concerned, 72% of health and beauty shoppers agree it’s important that brands ensure their local store teams are well-connected with their local customers.

“People want to feel as if they are meeting up with friends when they are in your store. Take this comment from Lush Solihull: “Our ethics and inclusivity have our customers returning each time because we provide a safe, judgement-free space.”

Recommendations throughout the report reveal the importance of quality customer feedback in-store forms and QR codes directing customers to an online page. People like to see what others are saying and if your store staff are knowledgeable and friendly, the comments will reflect that.

Ensure you are connected to your customers across their channel of choice. Whether that’s responding to online reviews, undertaking email surveys or using more modern communication channels such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, those who connect will prosper.

Always share customer data and insights with your frontline staff. Stores participating in the Proud of My Store initiative frequently refer to ‘team spirit’. Quite often, the smallest teams come across as the closest, displaying examples of how they stick together throughout challenging times and consider themselves a ‘family’. Best summarised thus: An excellent employee experience translates to an excellent customer experience.

As far as staff training is concerned, this industry has always scored highly thanks to such excellent resources provided by the Health Food Institute as well as supplier teams offering sound product training. It’s interesting to note that the HFI has responded to the cost pressures being placed on retailers with a scheme soon to be announced to encourage more owners of health stores to participate in its training courses at a more favourable cost.

A final comment from Critizr: “Super-influencers in the coming years will not be celebrities on Instagram but the staff in your local store.”

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