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What your customers think of you

Len Glenville
Chair, Health Stores UK

What does the public really think about independent health food stores? It's a question that lots of us have asked privately among ourselves. Now, thanks to new independently conducted research, it's been properly put to the test.

The survey was funded by Viridian Nutrition who wanted to explore consumer attitudes to health stores in more depth to help identify ways retailers can boost footfall and spend. The two-stage research programme involved a mix of store exit interviews, store manager interviews and focus groups, before moving on to a large national survey of 2,400 people and expert analysis.

One of the top headline findings to emerge from the study is a slightly sobering one: indie health store shoppers make up just 5% of the adult population. Viewed more positively, this figure shows the scale of the growth potential for indie health retailers, especially since 41% of Britons (that's 12m adults) have access to a local independent health store.

Indie health store shoppers are more likely than the general population to seek specialist health advice and they are treating more health conditions. They feel healthier with 72% of indie health store shoppers saying they are in 'very good' or 'good' health compared to the 56% national average.

They are more engaged with their wellbeing and ethics and they are nearly five times more likely to be regular consumers of organic food.

One of the challenges for health stores flagged up by the survey is that indie shoppers are more promiscuous than we might like to think. While they buy the majority of their health food products in independent health stores, they also buy regularly from supermarkets, chain stores and online. One way to prevent this type of shopper migration is to limit the number of brands in our stores that are widely available in these other outlets. Another is to up our game on the service and advice front.

The good news is that health stores already score well on trust. The research shows that 79% of indie shoppers value the advice they get from health stores. High numbers of indie shoppers (74%) also say that products from independent health stores offer better quality.

The research shows that health stores are doing well at attracting new customers – 50% have become health store regulars in the last two years. A key aim for stores, the survey concludes, is to convert more of these shoppers into 'super users' – the most frequent and highest spending customers.

It's a fascinating piece of research that offers lots of valuable insights into how we can grow and flourish as independent health food retailers. At Health Stores UK, we'll be looking closely at the findings and helping our members to get the most value out of it.

Contact [email protected] or call 01875 341 408 for details.

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