RICHMOND, Va. -- Ukrop's Super Markets here is developing an expanded vitamin and herbal-supplement section that will be rolled out to 10 stores as early as March 1.
Ukrop's chose the stores because they are both large enough to accommodate the bigger sections and located in areas with favorable demographic profiles, said John Beckner, pharmacy director.
"The demand is definitely there," he said. "Once we expand, we'll be able to give people an option, instead of their having to go to a General Nutrition Center or a natural-food store."
The retailer will promote the new sections in its monthly customer newsletter and in local print advertisements, Beckner said.
The Ukrop's stores that currently are strongest in vitamins devote only four or five shelves under the pharmacy counter to them, said an industry source familiar with the expansion.
Herbal products in particular have been under-represented, Beckner said. "We carry just a smattering of those products, maybe eight or 10 items."
The new sections will be in-aisle and will range in size from 16 to 24 linear feet, with endcap and power-wing displays, Beckner said.
Included will be about 100 stockkeeping units of herbals, said the industry source. Rexall-Sundown, Boca Raton, Fla., and Pharmavite, San Fernando, Calif., which produces the Nature Made line, will likely be the primary herbal suppliers, according to Beckner, though he stressed that the chain had yet to work out details with those companies.
In addition to Rexall-Sundown and Pharmavite, the industry source said, Ukrop's has been in talks with Nature's Bounty, Bohemia, N.Y.; Leiner Health Products, Carson, Calif., maker of the Your Life line of products; and Weider Nutrition Group, Salt Lake City, which produces the Schiff line, to develop its assortment of branded vitamins.
The source added that Ukrop's will continue its private-label program in vitamins but is looking for a new, as yet undetermined, supplier. Nature's Bounty had filled that role. Ukrop's, the source said, has enjoyed great sales success with its private-label vitamins, making about four private-label sales for every branded sale. (A typical ratio is two to one, he said.) He attributed this to the strength of the Ukrop's name in the local market.
Ukrop's has no plans to get into private-label herbals, Beckner noted.
In each of the stores involved in the rollout, the new vitamin-supplement set will be located either in or next to the pharmacy, "where the pharmacist is close by to answer questions," Beckner said. "We see the pharmacist as an important part of this whole rollout."
Ukrop's general-merchandise managers have taken a class to educate themselves about the category, and pharmacists will undergo special training in preparation for the rollout, he noted.
The chain aims eventually to unite vitamins, supplements and the pharmacy in one self-contained department, according to Beckner.