Supermarkets have the potential to become comprehensive wellness centers, and in the process recapture sales lost to other classes of trade.
Consumer awareness of the concept of wellness is growing, even though some people are confused about what it can mean at retail. However, food manufacturers' support of the concept and a continuing focus on health in nonfood categories give grocery store operators a chance to integrate the marketing of wellness to a degree that other channels cannot.
At the heart of wellness, many experts agree, is food, where the traditional supermarket has its core expertise and well-developed strategies. Putting this together with nonfood components like pharmacy, health and beauty care, and the growing number of in-store nurse clinics can educate both consumers and employees, while providing welcome life solutions.
“The key to a comprehensive wellness strategy is to think broadly about all aspects of health care and wellness that are in a state of flux — from high-deductible insurance policies to WebMD — and find your niche in that new world,” said Bill Bishop, president of the Willard Bishop consultancy, Barrington, Ill.
“That's important, because these changes are opening up new opportunities, and to take full advantage of them, we have to think more broadly than just from the standpoint of a grocery store,” he said.
“It's a cultural challenge with our team members in the stores — and not just educationally, but trying to live a different lifestyle to help educate our employees, who then will become advocates for our customers,” said Dan Funk, corporate vice president, general merchandise and health and beauty care, Supervalu, Eden Prairie, Minn.
Wellness also is a matter of balancing nutrition and food with products to complement that lifestyle, he said, speaking at a recent conference of the Global Market Development Center, Colorado Springs. “It's part of a comprehensive educational process with the consumers — making that connection with their lifestyle, and why our stores are important to shop,” he said.
“There is a great deal of confusion,” said David McConnell, president and chief executive officer of GMDC. “There is a lack of trust in labeling on the part of the consumer, and there is an opportunity for the industry to not only educate itself, but to educate consumers.”
“Consumers are paying attention to wellness, so retailers had better do that too,” said Robert Passikoff, president, Brand Keys, New York.
“Grocery stores have an opportunity to better position themselves as the essential source of wellness,” said Don Stuart, managing director, Cannondale Associates, Wilton, Conn. “The wellness strategy begins with food. Grocery stores can take that one step further with an array of products and services that contributes to one-stop shopping.” This includes pharmacy, HBC and in-store clinics, he noted.
“Too often, we think of wellness as a problem/solution: You go to a doctor, then you go to the pharmacy. But wellness really begins at the source in how we take care of our bodies, what we use for fuel, and that fuel — food — is typically purchased at a grocery store,” Stuart said.