EMMAUS, Pa. -- Based on the success of the first Rodale Academy, held exclusively for Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va., Rodale Press has scheduled two more academies in the spring and fall next year. The conferences will focus on how supermarkets can best educate their customers on healthy lifestyles.
The Ukrop's academy was a two-day session, designed to teach Ukrop's store personnel how to talk to shoppers in the same way Rodale speaks to its readers through its leading active-living magazines. "It was more how to communicate health information to your customers," said Tom Ney, Rodale's director, food marketing. Held at the Rodale corporate campus here, it was tailor-made for 25 Ukrop's executives from all different management levels, including category managers, pharmacists and store managers.
The academy faculty consisted of 22 editorial staff members who addressed various food and nonfood health-related topics from men's health to the maximum vitamin and mineral supplement dosages. Editors from Prevention to Men's Health Magazine talked to Ukrop's executives about how they can take this [philosophy] back to their stores and eventually to their customers. Videos were shown and organic meals were served during the Monday to Tuesday sessions. "You can't be laying a lot of nutraceutical jargon on [customers]," said Ney, "so Ukrop's learned how, for example, men's health talks to that market segment."
Rodale is in discussion with other supermarket chains on holding similar conferences, but Ney declined to mention any names. "We would schedule an exclusive academy for other chains, like the Ukrop's one," said Ney. The retailers could either send a few executives to the May and September conferences intended for both retailers as well as marketing partners and manufacturers, or schedule exclusive ones for their staff.
Ukrop's attended, according to pharmacy director John Beckner, because it is already deep in a major whole health initiative. Last week, the chain opened its fourth new unit that is heavily focused on whole health with a store-within-a-store concept. The store is staffed by a full-time specialist in natural and organic foods. According to Beckner, Ukrop's wanted to motivate and unify all of those within the 27-unit chain who are involved in any way with whole health.
"Whole health is going to require a concerted effort on the part of everybody in the store and everybody involved in whole health needs to be on board with the concept. We felt that spending two days at Rodale would enable our folks to be able to do that and that's held true. It was very motivating, " stated Beckner.
Added Ney, "We created this Rodale Academy for Ukrop's because they wanted to learn how we talk to our readers about health because, apparently, they intend to be talking to their customers about health. And using health for marketing purposes in the whole store." Ideally, according to Ney, Ukrop's will apply the Rodale approach in the retail environment.
Ney contends that retailers who take this approach will "build customer loyalty" by becoming a trusted source. "When you're talking about health to shoppers, you really have to be accurate in what you're saying and we're helping them to do that. And, it will have the customers looking to the chain as a source for information on health."
Beckner believes the conference was beneficial to those who are not already trained professionals in the field of health. "Our pharmacists are used to talking about medications and disease states, but everybody within the store needs to be able to share information and to communicate regarding health needs. I don't think the majority of associates were used to doing that."
The Rodale Academy, held earlier this year, is a new concept. Formerly, one or two editorial staff members would travel to grocery chain headquarters and address executives. "This way, the supermarket chain gets the whole thing in two days," said Ney.