Your state legislators have
been busy this year. From Vermont, where there is actually some good news,
to proposed bills throughout the region, and of course, New York State,
your Association has been equally busy keeping a watchful eye on all legislation
that could affect our members.
Besides the two bills in
New York State covered in the accompanying article, there has been a flurry
of legislative activity throughout our region, some of it good, most not
so good. Let's start with the good.
passes GE labeling bill
Despite pressure from Monsanto
earlier in the year, The Vermont House of Representatives has passed H.112,
a bill requiring the labeling of all Genetically Engineered (GE) food sold
in Vermont. However, according to the sponsors, there are plenty of hurdles
ahead. First, the bill must be approved in the Senate, which it probably
won't be able to look at until January 2014. If it is approved by the Senate,
it will become effective two years after the date it is passed, or 18 months
after at least two other states adopt similar bills, whichever comes first.
For more information on the proposed bill, please go to the following website:
Headed our way is HB 1272.
Initially working its way through the Indiana Legislature, the original
draft of HB 1272, according to the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), was
so bad that it would have criminalized all nutrition advice that didn't
come from one trade group, Registered
Dietitians. Though the bill
has been improved, there are still serious problems with it. Though the
bill is only supposed to concern the licensing and oversight of Registered
Dietitians, controversial language was recently added that would allow
the board--which would be comprised of Dieticians--new powers to investigate
and refer to the Attorney General "complaints" filed against their competition:
other nutrition professionals (i.e., nutritionists), who are not Registered
Dieticians, do not require licensure to practice, and are not subject to
provisions of this act.
If it had passed, the negative
implications of HB 1272 would be significant. Specifically, HB 1272 would
have to create a government board made up of members of one trade association
and provide them vague new authorities to regulate competition in
nutrition services. HB 1272 would dampen future job growth in nutritionrelated
sectors (nutrition care services, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare).
Fortunately, on May 8th the
Governor of Indiana vetoed the Indiana licensure bill, stating that
he was not in favor of laws that restrict competition, create barriers
to entry and diminish job creation!
However, the group behind
the bill has developed a sophisticated grass roots campaign, which is working
its way through every state. With all of the time and money they have spent
already, it's unlikely that this setback will slow down their momentum
very much. We're working with Darrell Rogers, Campaigns and Communications
Director, ANH, and Judy Stone, Legislative Policy Director for Certification,
Board for Nutrition Specialists, to stop it before it reaches our region.
The NPA East Advocacy Committee
is composed of a handful of volunteers and our Executive Director. On a
daily basis, we keep track of legislative activities in the 11 states that
comprise our region plus Washington, DC. You can help by volunteering an
hour or so of your time every couple of weeks to keep an eye on the legislatures
in your state. It's easy. And we'll provide you with all the tools you
need. But the end result of being our eyes and ears on pending legislation
Interested in helping us
protect your interests? Call your Executive Director, Paul Kushner, at
856-985-5446 and help us monitor your state legislature. Or email Paul
at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also
sign up to help under the Advocacy
section of the website.
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National Office Discusses Important Bylaws Amendments
Tuesday, May 14, NPA National sponsored a town hall meeting webinar of
its membership to discuss the upcoming proposed amendments to the association's
bylaws. The most notable amendment is the proposal to expand the definition
of a retail member.
to a study commissioned by the National Office, roughly 60 percent of all
natural products are sold outside the traditional natural channel. Following
the presentation of the study, an NPA member work group explored the pros
and cons of how the current bylaws define a natural products retailer,
and therefore how well they serve the mission of the association, which
is to advocate for the rights of consumers to have access to natural products,
and for the rights of retailers and suppliers to sell these products.
work group researched and discussed this issue and proposed to the NPA
Board of Directors revised language for the definition of a retail member,
removing the requirement that 75 percent of sales consist of nutritional
foods, dietary supplements, and related items, and that a retailer must
have a physical storefront.
to NPA National, revising the bylaws to reflect this current industry landscape,
NPA and its members will be positioned to garner increased power and continue
to grow as the most powerful and comprehensive natural products industry
association serving the entire supply chain, while maintaining the one
vote per member policy, regardless of size or membership dues category.
National members will have the opportunity to vote on this proposed amendment
later this year.
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East Members Respond to Needs Assessment Survey:
the recent downturn in the economy and the dramatic increase in competition
from the internet and big box stores, the NPA East Board of Directors decided
it was time to survey our membership on the state of independent natural
products retailers and to determine how best to serve your needs. The questionnaire
was mailed on April 1, 2013, to all NPA East members and a sample of nonmembers
within our region.
of the deadline, April 22, 2013, 30% of those contacted responded. That
may not sound like a big number, but statistically, it does give us a reliable
sample of the NPA East membership.
on the information provided by respondents, the typical independent retailer
has been an active participant in the natural products industry for more
than fifteen years, is the owner of a retail store, and has been a member
of NPA East for more than ten years.
asked to state the primary reason they belong to NPA East, respondents
answered in the following order of importance:
To support the industry
NPA East lobbying efforts on their behalf
Information related to legislative and regulatory issues
what services they want from their Association, in order of importance,
they responded as follows:
Store optimization (Tied for second)
you want it delivered
asked how they wanted this information delivered, the overwhelming choice
was email. Traditional direct mail slightly edged out the NPA East website.
Access to email Even though email was listed as the primary way respondents
want to receive information, when asked if they would provide NPA East
with their email address, nearly 30% of those responding said no. The reason
listed most often was, "I receive too many emails already", followed by
"I don't use email."
will NPA East use this information to improve service to you?
NPA East Membership Committee will further analyze your responses. Once
that's been done, the Committee will present its recommendations to the
NPA East Board. After the Board approves the Committee's recommendations,
we'll let you know what we plan to do and when we plan to do it. Look for
these recommendations in your email and in future editions of the NPA East
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East Retailer Spotlight:
Spotlight: Stephen Distefano, Owner, Strictly Gluten Free, East Northport,
By Paul Kushner, Executive
Director, NPA East
Q. What is your background
and how did you get interested in natural products?
My background is in sales
and marketing, and I have worked in various industries. A little
more than four and a half years ago my wife was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
At that time, we began to conduct research on the gluten free industry.
Based on our own experience, my entrepreneurial spirit, and my passion
for helping other people, we began to explore how best to help my wife
with her condition and serve others with Celiac Disease. What resulted
was the decision to open up a retail business devoted exclusively to those
who suffer from this disease, which we named Strictly Gluten Free.
Q. Tell me about
Our retail store and web-based
site are the premier resources for consumers who seek a gluten free lifestyle.
We have personally selected and sampled more than 95% of the products we
carry. Our main focus is providing products that are guaranteed to be gluten
free. Many of the products we carry also are allergen friendly, including
those that are dairy free, casein free, peanut-free, corn-free, egg-free,
soy-free, and tree-nut free. We also carry our own line of vitamins
and supplements for consumers who may be deficient in certain areas common
to those maintaining a gluten free lifestyle.
At Strictly Gluten Free we
focus on creating an environment that supports a gluten free diet, ensuring
that our customers are provided with a high level of comfort, convenience,
and understanding, while gaining a greater knowledge of how to maintain
their gluten free lifestyle. We also strive to make their diet
more affordable by making available to them the best product selection
available, which results in greater convenience and greater savings.
Q. Do you have a
formal business plan or an informal one, and can you share the key elements
that you believe will help drive your future success?
We do have a formal business
plan which we developed during the 18 months of research we performed prior
to opening our store. We constructed a blueprint that provides what
we believe will be the key to our success. While we continue to fine-tune
it, we know now that it must include the desire to be true to our beliefs
and always strive to keep the best interests of our customers utmost in
our minds. We have been in business for one year and are already profitable.
Beyond financial success, we also have measured ourselves by how well we
are able to educate and support the lifestyle our customers have chosen
for themselves. That has been our goal since the first day we opened
Q. We've recently
gone through what some economists say is the worst downturn since the Great
Depression. Why did you pick this environment to open a retail store?
The economy definitely
has been volatile. We ultimately decided to open a retail store simply
because, based on our personal experiences and extensive market research,
there was clearly a need in the marketplace for a store that focused exclusively
on the whole gluten free lifestyle. We are a niche business in a niche
industry, and we are thriving in this economy simply because we have done
it right. We care about our customers' lives and do not just focus on providing
them a resource for purchasing healthier foods. We also concern ourselves
with who they are as people and what their family requirements may be when
they visit our store. It is a wonderful feeling to be able
to help other human beings and truly help improve their lives in some way,
while earning an honest living.
Q. Competition from
big box stores is a concern for all independent retailers. How do
you compete with a virtual monolith that can often offer more selection
and better prices?
We do not believe any
big box store is competition in our market. In fact, we welcome their competition.
If a big box store provides products for the gluten free consumer it means
that the market is expanding. We are confident that our level of
personal service and product knowledge will keep customers coming back
to us. Our customers are not in a huge data base. They are people, like
my wife, who have specific needs that we believe we can fill better than
any big box outlet. What they need and what we provide is an opportunity
to be heard and the ability to receive guidance. A big box store cannot
offer what we do: a great, exclusive selection of gluten free products
at very competitive prices and a level of personal experience they can't
match. Just ask our loyal customers
Q. Do you plan to sponsor
community events at your store? If so, why did you choose them?
We have already sponsored
a local gluten free vendor fair and expo at an offsite location. We also
have sponsored and are currently scheduling seminars to be held in our
store led by doctors, nutritionists and health coaches. We
are providing these opportunities to our customers so that we can bring
the community together and allow consumers to become better educated.
The way we decide which individuals, organizations, or professionals to
sponsor is to learn who they are and what they're all about. We have
an interviewing process we use to determine if they meet the standards
of Strictly Gluten Free and enhance our brand as well as serving our customers.
We also have donated to many local organizations and events that support
our community and our philosophy.
Q. What have you
found to be the best media for marketing your store so far?
We rely heavily on word of
mouth communication and our own networking capabilities. We also
employ both traditional and non-traditional forms of marketing. We're
so new that many of our marketing plans are still in the testing stages.
Q. As a brand new retail
store owner, what have been some of your biggest challenges to date?
I would say that there
is not enough time in a day to be able to get everything accomplished.
We are learning that there are many different facets to our business model
that go beyond having a retail presence. We are constantly learning the
best ways to achieve our goals efficiently and effectively.
get out your crystal ball? What will independent retailers,
especially new owners like you, need to do in the next five to ten years
to continue to survive and prosper?
Our experience has been to
pick a business you really believe in. In my case, the decision was
a result of my wife's condition. Then you need to really focus on
the business you've chosen, do your due diligence in terms of the competition
and the customers you plan to serve, and never take your eye off your goals.
You may find, as we have, that adjustments need to be made both in your
short-term and long term planning. Ultimately, you'll get as much
out of your business as you are willing to put into it. There are
no shortcuts to success. Being an owner, I've discovered, is a lot
tougher than being an employee, both in time and financial exposure.
But in the end, the rewards are much greater as well. I also believe
that we have found a niche that will continue to grow and offer opportunities
for those who chose to pursue it. If anyone would like to talk to
me about starting a business that focuses exclusively on gluten free products,
I am happy to share what I have learned so far.
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