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NPA East President's Letter
By John Montague
John Montague, President, NPA East
As always, I would like to start out by thanking you, our members, for you continued support of and participation in our association.  You are the heart and soul of NPA East and the reason we exist.  I also want to thank our Board of Directors for their commitment throughout the year.  As you certainly know, time is a precious commodity for retailers and suppliers, who often work seven days a week. Yet, our volunteer Board still finds the time to do the work those results in the success we've had this year and every year, protecting and defending your right to do business.

Finally, I want to thank your Executive Director for running the Association on a day- to- day basis. He keeps an eye on 11 states and the district of Columbia for any legislation that supports our industry or, more often, could  make it more difficult, or, in some cases,  impossible for you to keep your doors open. He is also the key relationship manager for our partnership with Expo East, which contributes significantly to our annual revenue.  Now, let's focus on what we've accomplished for you in 2013.

Advocacy
While keeping an eye on all of the state houses in our region, we have focused much of our attention on New York State, where historically most of the bills we've managed to kill or help rewrite have gotten their start.  2013 was no exception.  Once again the same group of legislators introduced bills that, had they been enacted into law, would have required all supplements sold in New York State to have their labeling altered to include language that states that supplements are not regulated or inspected by the FDA.  This is an unnecessary and burdensome requirement.

All supplements fall under the FDA's jurisdiction, but as food, not drugs, and as such are one of the most regulated foods in the industry. This legislation, had it been been enacted, would have created a major financial hardship for the manufacturers and suppliers who would have been forced to alter their labeling just for New York State, causing increased costs that would be passed along to retailers. Retailers in the state would either have to absorb the costs or pass the increases along to customers, making them less competitive with contiguous states.  This was just one of many laws your association managed to kill, which surely would have found its way to your state.

In August, John Montague, NPA East President, Paul Kushner, NPA East Executive Director, and Elizabeth McCabe, Director of Public Affairs for the Alliance for Natural Health, met with key legislative staffers at the Capitol in Albany, New York. Our goal was to attempt to preempt any legislation that would be detrimental to our industry in 2014. 

During our visit to five key legislative offices, we were able to lay the groundwork for our position on any future bills that may come up and developed a positive relationship with these important staffers, all of whom are in positions to influence the outcome of future proposed legislation.

Expo East
NPA East played a key role in promoting Expo East 2013.  Working in concert with our partners at New Hope Natural Media, our marketing efforts resulted in record attendance at the show.  We also helped to develop parts of the education program, which was well-received by participants.  We are already beginning to work on promoting Expo East 2014, and from what we've seen, the show is on track to be another event worth your time and participation.  For more information on Expo East 2014, please turn to the back page of the Newsletter.

Website
We continue to fine tune the NPA East Website, adding more industry information we believe you will find useful and adding links to other sites we believe will be of interest to you.  As always, we seek your input to ensure that the website is a valuable resource for you and your business.  Please contact your Executive Director, Paul Kushner, at info@npaeast.org, or call Paul at 856-985-5446 if you have any recommendations for how to improve the content of the Website.

What's Next?
We are currently working on a Blog for NPA East members.  Once it's up and running, it will offer members weekly updates on the industry that are designed to keep you current and help you promote your business.  We'll send you weekly emails to let you know when there's something new on the site or to inform you of breaking news you need to know about immediately.   All that's required for you to do to follow an article is click on the link provided. We'll keep you informed as this work in progress reaches completion.

Throughout 2014, we'll keep you informed about what's new within the industry and ask for your support for any proposed legislation that could help or hurt your ability to succeed and serve your customers. 

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What's Inside

» NPA East President's Letter

» Retailer Spotlight:  Sue and Valley Bennett, For Goodness Sake Natural Foods, Leesburg, Virginia

» Take Action In Your State

» NPA Winter 2014 Newsletter

» NPA East Welcomes Newest Board Member

» Regulatory Update

» NPA East and ANH Join Forces to Oppose Two Proposed Bills Working Their Way Through the New York Legislature

» FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
 


 
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Every time a new member joins NPA East, our voice gets stronger and our ability to influence legislation both locally and nationally grows exponentially. The job won't get done without you.  Please do your part to help protect our industry by joining today.

For more information on how you can help us protect your business, please contact NPA East Executive Director, Paul Kushner at 856-985-5446. E-mail: info@npaeast.org.
 




NPA East Retailer Spotlight: 
Q&A Retail Spotlight: Sue and Valley Bennett, For Goodness Sake Natural Foods, Leesburg, Virginia
Sue Bennett & Valley Bennett
By Paul Kushner, Executive Director, NPA East

Sue Bennett and her daughter, Valley Bennett are, respectively, the founder and owner of For Goodness Sake Natural Foods in Leesburg, Virginia.  Sue has been a fixture in the natural products industry for more than 37 years.  After starting her first store in Great Falls, Virginia, Sue became an industry broker.  Sue is also a long standing member of the NPA East Board of Directors.  I have had the pleasure of working with Sue for more than seven years, and no matter where we travel together from Expo East to a local industry event, Sue seems to be on a first name basis with half of the participants.  Her knowledge of our industry, both as a retailer and a broker, is beyond extensive.

Although pursuing a degree in Biology and Chemistry, Valley kept returning to the store, and eventually took over the reins from Sue four years ago. 

Q.  What is your background and how did you get interested in Natural Products?

A. Sue: I was raised on a ranch in New Mexico with a family that truly believed that all ills of animals and humans can be cured with proper food, herbs, and vitamins.  My parents and grandparents fought the government in the 1920's as they forced all farmers and ranchers to inject hormones in our cattle and sheep. 

While raising my own family as natural as possible, I started For Goodness Sake Natural Foods more than 37 years ago.  All in our family were swimmers and good health examples. 

After starting the store here in Great Falls, I also became a broker for the industry.  As time went on, and every part of the industry began to expand, I became a regional, then national and finally an international sales manager for an excellent and varied number of manufacturers.  During this time, Valley and her sisters and brothers helped to keep the store running and growing. 

Valley: I started helping my mom in her store when I was in High School.  I was able to work in a natural food store during college along with other jobs. The natural food store was not a primary focus. It was mostly a comfort zone during college.  My education is in Biology/Chemistry, and I was pursuing another career but kept going back to the natural food store. I could see how my efforts were making a difference in people's lives, educating them on the better choices we had for eating and healing their bodies. 

Q. Tell me about your store and your product mix:  How much is supplements, how much is food. Which is your primary focus and why?

 A. Valley:  Currently, we have approximately 35% Supplements, 45% Groceries, 10% Cosmetics, and 10% Pet Food.  Our primary focus is on groceries, and we will continue to grow that area. It is important for us to teach people the benefits of eating real food. And as we continue to learn, we will share our knowledge of healthy choices with our customers...  Our clients like food and like to eat so it's a fun give and take, because we learn from each other.  For this next year, I am looking to change our cosmetic area, not necessarily growing the department but just freshening up the selection. I love the supplement companies we deal with, keeping the focus on the basics and not paying too much attention to passing fads.

Our product mix is very strong in supplements, herbs, and homeopathic products. We also offer our customers local produce, local meat, local dairy and even local kombucha mushrooms.   Most important is the fact that we make a day-to- day effort to fulfill the requests from our customers. 

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?

A. Valley:  I would classify my business plan as informal.  My plan comes from my hip and my gut most of the time.  As we continue to grow, I am creating more formal business plans on the day- to- day functioning of the store. We are putting in a POS system, and that will help us with our success in the coming years. Keeping up with technology is a key element to success. Communication with your clients is also a key ingredient.

Sue: I know Valley works very hard on this, and she is constantly upgrading our customer order systems. We also offer our employees and customers regular educational opportunities. 

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?

A. Valley:  I make a point of learning from our competition.  Competition keeps us on our toes and makes us better. To be a good competitor, you need to know where you are going and not get swayed from your path.  We make a point of being consistent, and as Sue mentioned, the "personal touch" is key. There are always customers who shop price and will drive the distance to get it. Sometimes we have the best price, and sometimes we don't. Our regular customers know we work hard to offer fair prices on our products. Customers appreciate case discounts and our Rewards Program.

We have well educated employees, and we personally have excellent relationships with our suppliers and manufacturers, which enables us to stock many new and unique products and have the expertise on the floor to educate our customers on which ones best fill their needs. We also are willing to special order what is needed for our customers, if we don't have the products in stock.  Our philosophy of always adding the "Personal Touch" is the heart and soul of our business, and I believe this focus is what makes us unique and has helped us build our customer base and maintain it for all of these years.

Q. Many independent retailers say that the key to success is finding good employees and holding onto them once they've been trained.  Do you agree?  And, if so, what kind of environment do you foster at your store to keep employees once you've invested the time and money to train them? 

A. Valley:  Employees are the key to success. I have amazing employees. They are smart, fun, dedicated to the store, enjoy life outside of the store, and we are respectful to each other and conscious that we all have lives outside of the store.  It is important to help each other and be aware of everyone's needs for the day. I believe in letting the employee make decisions. We talk, we try new things, we learn, we make mistakes, and the cycle keeps going on.

Sue: Many of our employees have been with us for a long period of time.  They, too, have a great passion for our store and our industry.  Valley makes sure they are all well trained and updated every work day.

Q.  Do you sponsor community events at your store? 

A. Sue:  We have a Community board for our clients to promote their businesses. We support events outside the store like health fairs and other local events.  Valley constantly supports many new and ongoing events at our store.  Our customers feel that we are an educational destination just for them. 

Q. What have you found to be the best media for marketing your store? 

A. Valley:  We send out a weekly email, and we're on Face Book and Twitter, updating customers on products that have just arrived in the store.  Social Media has been a positive and consistent way for us to reach our customer on a regular basis. We will definitely continue with these types of communications along with our Personal Touch and care programs to reach out to the community.  We also offer ongoing education, and we have a great Rewards Program.

Q. As a long time owner, what have been some of your biggest challenges to date?

A. Valley:  I have only owned the store for four years, so I am still learning how to be an effective owner. Besides the paperwork, which will decrease as we move on to our POS system,  I focus on making sure our customer service is sharp and that we are knowledgeable about what is happening in our industry.  And we always focus on our mission: helping people, one customer at a time, with better choices for food and household care that affect their lives.

Q. Now, get out your crystal ball.  What will independent retailers need to do in the next five to ten years to continue to survive and prosper? 

A. Valley: Don't be afraid to change, be creative and be consistent. Constantly be aware of new demands and provide a welcoming, local environment around the store.  A good natural feel at the store makes for loyal customers. 

Also, our industry has truly moved forward due to diligent and ongoing research and support for quality products, which are a direct result of constantly improving manufacturing practices, and of course, the personal touch.

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NPA East Welcomes Newest Board Member:
Joe Weiss
We are pleased to announce the addition of Joe Weiss to the NPA East Board of Directors.  Joe is currently Vice President of Corporate Brands for The Vitamin Shoppe.  Prior to joining the Vitamin Shoppe, Joe was Senior Vice President, Merchandising, at GNC.   Joe received his MBA from the Joseph M. Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh and his Bachelor of Science in Economics from Penn State University.  We look forward to Joe's contribution to the Association as we begin a new year.

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Regulatory Update: 
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.

Vermont 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: http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Regulation/Vermont-House-of-Representatives-gives-green-light-to-GMO-labeling-bill

Registered Dieticians Bill
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.

Join the fight
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 is priceless.

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 info@npaeast.org. You can also sign up to help under the Advocacy section of the website.

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We Keep Your Doors Open. Our Mission: to preserve access to, and facilitate markets for natural products. For more information and to join NPA East, please contact the executive director.

 
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