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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
East Retailer Spotlight:
Spotlight: Sue and Valley Bennett, For Goodness Sake Natural Foods, Leesburg,
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
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
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
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
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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East Welcomes Newest Board Member:
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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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 email@example.com. You can also
sign up to help under the Advocacy
section of the website.
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