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From the top: Combining premium and mid-range brands

In a departure from our normal format for these articles, Better Retailing Magazine editor Alistair Forrest quizzes The Nature’s Bounty Co MD Lee Fineman about the company’s positioning following its (yet to be confirmed) sale to KKR and Holland & Barrett to L1 Retail.

How will the changes in ownership affect your relationship with independent health store retailers?

Although the sale of a majority stake in the Nature’s Bounty Company to KKR has recently been announced it is unlikely to be completed until October. Once completed, I expect no change in our relationship with independent health store retailers and we will continue to support our independent customers in the UK and Ireland.

How important is it for independent retailers to have a premium supplement range together with an alternative at different price points?

Premium ranges will always be important for independent retailers because they help to differentiate them from the mass market. Premium brands offer a broad range of specialist products and independent retailers have the knowledge and expertise to help consumers find the right product for their needs. However, with new consumers coming into the sector it is also important to cater for different consumer needs. So for example, having mid-priced ranges that cater for consumers trading up from mass market products, or providing easy-to-navigate ranges for consumers looking to self-select their supplements, can help independent retailers to cater for more of the potential market.

Given their emphasis on quality, which of these ranges should they give priority to?

As a manufacturer, we believe that premium products should be given priority but we also recognise that consumer needs differ by store and by area, and that independent store owners are best placed to decide what their consumers are looking for. We know that premium products are not for everyone, so having the right mix of products at different price points is important. More mainstream products, with lower potencies and less exotic ingredients, are valuable steps on the journey to a premium product and independent retailers are really good at educating their customers and taking them on that journey.

Do you think independents have grasped all the opportunities to market healthy nutrition and what more should they do?

Obviously some stores are more active than others in marketing to consumers, but we believe that there are many more opportunities for independents. Healthy nutrition is now becoming a lifestyle choice for younger generations as well as to those with specific health interests. It is important for our independent customers to engage with new as well as existing consumers whether that be via social media or traditional activation such as window and in-store displays. VMS still has very low per capita consumption across the UK population and finding ways to engage new consumers is a huge opportunity to grow the overall category.

Solgar has a powerful educational programme. Will this support both brands?

We are very proud of our educational programme and the support we offer to our independent customers. We offer a variety of support ranging from our team of Regional Trainers, printed educational support materials and also our on-line learning platform The Solgar Academy. Some retailers are utilising these opportunities more than others – we have some customers where their entire staff have completed all the modules within the Solgar Academy and other stores who have signed up but not yet taken advantage. In addition we also run a programme of workshops and lecture tours which are generally well attended, but there is always room for more customers. With the launch of our Nature’s Bounty brand we will be supporting both brands with training for our independent customers.

How should an educational programme like yours be funded – front-loaded and less margin or paid for by the user?

We believe that our educational programme is a cost of doing business and it is important to support our brand with our customers. Consequently we do not charge customers for the educational support we provide but we do need to ensure it is viable and that we can expect to see a sales return for the investment. We believe that supporting our independent customers with training delivers a measurable sales uplift and the training then becomes self-funding.

What is your message of support for the independent retailer that can differentiate them from the multiples including Holland & Barrett?

Our team of Territory Account Managers work exclusively with the independent trade and is dedicated to helping retailers differentiate their offer from H&B and the mass market. For example, tools such as the Solgar and Nature’s Bounty loyalty schemes reward consumers for shopping with them. Our ‘Retailer Recommends’ programme allows retailers and their staff to try a product of their choice free of charge and pass on a personal recommendation to shoppers in store. We also continue to invest in our education programme broadening our reach through online resources such as the Solgar Academy and the live webinar programme, plus in-store training and workshops delivered by our five-strong training team. We are in the process of constructing our exciting marketing plans for 2018, which will give many more opportunities for our independent customers to differentiate their offer. We will be sharing the plan very soon.

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