Avoiding the Post-Holiday Retailing Blahs

Posted Dec 31st, 1997 in From Vito's Desk

Avoiding the Post-Holiday Retailing Blahs

A Food for Thought Article in the December 1997 Issue of Natural Health Products Report  (Trade Magazine)  


By: Vito Pirri

Avoiding the Post-Holiday Retailing Blahs by Raking In The Moolah!

The average customer sees the holiday season as a busy, bustling shopping time, however in our industry, it can be a slow retailing time indeed. The customer’s focus is not so much on health as it is on the spirit and atmosphere of the holiday, and after being steeped in the season for a while, they really have less disposable income for things like vitamins, and personal care products. So how do we secure a slice of that income for ourselves when holiday expenses and gifts are tapping into the dollars that would normally be destined for the health food store?

The prime retail areas of your store must be merchandised to exploit the theme of the season.

Signage should be integrated into your holiday decor and should now be wreathed with festive holly: items on your check-out counter such as snacks, massage rollers, magnetic bracelets, lip gloss, one magically transformed into "stocking stuffers".

Instead of putting items like soya milk on special on these holiday times, find those items that translate more easily to the season. Body care products, for example, make good gift items. Most personal care companies produce "starter kits" which enable the customer to try the product for a modest initial out-lay. Feature these as holiday gift items, so that the recipients who enjoy them will come back and purchase them during the year.

By giving customers a good gift idea, you have satisfied the customers by introducing them to a new product and you may also have Broadened the product base for the customer was used to buying. Be sure to include your business card inside this starter-kit so that the recipient has specific directions on where to go when they want to purchase full size quantities-your store.

To motivate the sale of products, recommend the sale of books such as Prescription For Natural Healing. It will extol the virtues of all the products you already carry and if the book has been given to a skeptic as a gift, it may even result in a few more converts.

Gift-wrapping is another way to draw the gift-hunting customer into the store. It's a small, relatively inexpensive service that offers the ultimate in convenience to the customer. Pre-wrapped parcels also make excellent window displays.

This brings us to the "blah" times. The holidays are over, everyone is penniless and feeling guilty and out-of-shape. 

Now is a natural food stores opportunity to step in, take away all that guilt and increase sales. After all getting in shape and taking care of one's self is the single most commonly reported New Year's resolution.

  1. Advertising at this time of year is essential. The slant of this advertising should be aimed at overall health improvement and getting in shape. Price is not an issue at this time of year. Make sure customers know that your staff is available to put together a personalized program geared to their specific needs.
  2. Your diet section should now be prominent and highlighted with signage. Use case stacks to attract the attention of those newly resolved to loose weight.
  3. Promote your "low fat, low cholesterol" foods as an alternative to commercial brands of "fat free".
  4. Re-merchandise your store immediately after the holiday. Give it a fresh look, a new theme. Let the customer know something is happening in your store.
  5. Slow retail times are ideal for introducing new products. This can be done via flyer, by passive sampling, free samples or even a new innovative window display.
  6. Make use of your store mailing list by sending a discount certificate or special invitation to sample some of your new products. Bringing in a guest speaker to talk about nutrition is an excellent way to attract customers. 
    Many of the big companies even have celebrities they can get you, so talk to you rep. If your mailing list is up to date and notes the customers' specific needs, it will prove invaluable to you at this time.
  7. Have an "open house". Serve vegetable entrées, wheat free products etc. this will help you define who your customers are and what dietary needs you can satisfy for them. Service is still your trump card. It inspires loyalty and keeps them coming back to your store.
No mater what time of year, conveying the message to the customer that your store will always be there for them, is the most important job you have-not selling your merchandise at a discount! January doesn't have to be the month you loose money. In our industry, it should be the time you swoop in like an avenging angel to capitalize on the holiday excesses.


Vito Pirri is a well-known retailer and partner in Simply Consulting, a natural-product marketing firm helping retailers to stay on top of a changing market.

Natural Health Products Report  (Trade Magazines)                     February 1998


Vito Pirri

Upselling Techniques To

Beat The Winter Sales Blahs

   The holidays are over and the winter blahs have now set in. For the sharp retailer, this is the time to upsell your customers.

   Stimulate sales by changing things around. The same merchandise in a different location will start to sell again. Merchandise your store in a way that appeals to different “lifestyles”. Train your staff to show the customer every product in that particular section, not just the item the customer has come in to purchase. If someone is buying diet tea, that’s your sales clue to show them other weight-related products that are merchandised in that same section. Meal Replacements, fat-burning supplements, zone bars, weight loss supplements should all be displayed together.

   A related category to weight loss is “fitness”. Contact fitness clubs in your area such as YMCA, and offer their members a free product or sample when they visit your store. The new customer can now be shown your “fitness” section and educated on a wide variety of products available to them in that category.

   Prominent bold signage can easily direct the customers to the area of the store that interests them. Make sure your staff is on a first-name basis with as many customers as possible. They must also be able to find the location of all products in the store in an instant, in order to service efficiently and profitably.

   Make sure your customer doesn’t have to shop anywhere else to get that EDLP, (every day low price). This can be done by tagging products in your store; with a SVP sticke. (Special Value Product). The SVP enables the customer to buy these products at an escalating discount depending on the amount purchased. For example: if a customer purchases $1.00 to $25.00 the earn an automatic 5% discount: for purchases $25.00 t0 $50.00 give them 10% discount, and so on. The customer who purchases $23.00 worth of stickered products, would, if your staff suggested it, probably spend the extra $2.00 to obtain the 10% discount you are offering. That is upselling!

   Your staff is an integral and vital part of the upselling process.

They must be trained to make the suggestion and seek opportunity to make it. Often, customers are pleased with your concern and even refreshed by your staff’s helpful attitude.

   Never underestimate the power of suggestion. Did you know that 25% of health food shoppers purchase a brand name breakfast cereal when they are in a health food store? When the customer comes to the cash register with their box of cereal, ask them if they have tried the new cereal from the same company. Chances are they will buy their old favourite and try the new one as well. You have now sold two boxes of cereal, not just one. This also gives the customer something to talk about with friends and that “word of mouth” is also a method of upselling.

   A frequent Buyers Card programme is another ideal method of upselling. Ask your customer if they’re interested in receiving your monthly newsletter and sales flyers. Most will be. Have them fill out an application to become a Frequent Buyer’s Club.

This card entitles them to receive a discount, on a specific day, once a month, or once a week, whichever you prefer. On that day, showing their Frequent Buyer’s Card gives them a 10% discount on unadvertised products. You have now turned a mediocre sales day into the best day of the week or even the month.

   The Frequent Buyer’s Card can also be used to upsell on a daily basis. Highlight certain products (slow movers or new items) with signs worded like:




 This builds impulse sales and stimulates the customer to shop more often at your store because they know you’ll have something at “the best price in town”. Now that’s upselling!

   Successful upselling also means avoiding common merchandising errors. One faux pas is putting similar merchandise in different areas of your store. For instance, always market salad dressing and oils in the same area. These products should then flow into your condiments, vinegars, etc. Why? It’s easier to upsell products by reminding the customer of the item. Reminding them “to buy a bottle of canola oil and get a package of a dry salad dressing (which happens to require oil) for 10% off”. You have now stimulated the sale of a product the customer may need (dressing), may not have tried but may now buy again.

   Upselling can also involve using a “value added” feature. By adding a small package of “simulated soy bacon bits” to a bottle of salad dressing, you’re spending a little to make a lot. Again you’ve introduced them to a product that may be new to them and which they may continue to purchase from you!


Vito Pirri is a well-known retailer and partner in Simply Consulting, a natural-product marketing firm helping retailers to stay on top of a changing market.