WholeFoods Magazine Releases 39th Annual Retailer Survey

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WholeFoods Magazine has released its 39th Annual Retailer Survey in collaboration with Jay Jacobowitz, merchandising editor and president/founder of Retail Insights.

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WholeFoods Magazine has released its 39th Annual Retailer Survey in collaboration with Jay Jacobowitz, merchandising editor, and president/founder of Brattleboro, VT-based Retail Insights. Sponsored by Action Brand Management, the survey will appear in the January, 2017 issue, which can be accessed here. This year, WholeFoods partnered with Readex Research, allowing retailers to answer the survey through its online digital platform.

“We have always known what a valuable tool our survey has been and wanted to make it the best resource for all natural products industry professionals,” says Heather Wainer, publisher of WholeFoods. “By partnering with Readex we were able to compile more accurate data with more participants to expand the survey into the biggest and best yet.”
Independent natural products retailers representing $1.59 billion in sales and 2.5 million ft2 participated in the survey, up from $1.06 billion and 1.7 million ft2 in last year’s survey. Respondents provided insight into sales through the year ended June, 2016, as well as details on expenses, customers, employees, and forecasts for the future.

Overall, the news was positive, with 70% of participants reporting a median increase in sales of 11%, and 66% forecasting increases of up to 13% for next year. The survey covered stores from 800 ft2 to 40,000 ft2, located in all areas of the country, and operating in every type of trade area, from small, rural communities to major metropolitan centers. Because of the vast increase in participation in this year’s survey, average sales per store jumped 62%, to $4,429,937 from $2,729,200 in last year’s survey.

Perishable foods — those requiring refrigeration, such as fresh produce, dairy, meat and seafood, frozen items, and foods prepared for immediate consumption in the deli or grab-and-go case — continued to define store types, from vitamin and supplement-focused stores with no fresh foods, to full blown supermarkets generating a majority of sales from perishables.

As one might expect, larger, fresh-food-focused stores are more complex and expensive to run, and operate on thinner profit margins, but generate vastly higher sales and profits compared to smaller, easier-to-operate supplement oriented stores. The survey divided retailers into five roughly equal parts (quintiles) according to the percentage of perishable food sales, from 0% to 46% or more, with rather striking differences in performance and operating characteristics.

One key takeaway from the survey is the close link between stores that renovated and/or expanded and strong growth. Those retailers that reinvested in their stores reported the strongest year-over-year sales results. And, many survey participants plan to expand again next year.

The industry is clearly growing, according to survey participants, with reports that the millennial generation — those shoppers just now turning 30-something years old — is beginning to seek natural remedies to achieve and maintain health. On the other hand, independent retailers reported pressure from increased competition from brick-and-mortar stores as well as online.

Survey respondents also told WholeFoods their deepest concerns. These ranged from shoppers fishing for information only to use their smart phones to check for better prices, to out-of-stocks that retailers believe result from new competitors scooping up supply before these products can reach independent stores.

For a more detailed analysis, please read the survey here, and please sign up for the live webinar on Wednesday, February 22, 2017, where Jay Jacobowitz and WholeFoods Magazine’s editor, Julissa Catalan, will discuss the strategic implications of this year’s survey with a live audience of industry participants.

About WholeFoods Magazine:
WholeFoods Magazine is a national, monthly trade magazine that has been published continuously since 1977. Besides the Survey in December, WholeFoods also publishes the Source Directory each May. For daily industry news, columns and access to our digital issues, visit http://www.WholeFoodsMagazine.com. For our online SourceBook, visit http://www.NaturalProductFinder.com.

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