Where Our Journey Began…
I have owned a health food store for since 1979 and I have faced many challenges. Steep internet discounting has been an issue for some time. I decided to try and take a stand up for our industry because enough is enough and we are heading toward a dangerous scenario if we do not change course.
A long time customer of mine came into my store and purchased $700 worth of supplements using a one time 30% coupon that she had received in the mail. Within a matter of days, she returned all of her products and demanded a refund. My manager took over for the clerk and the customer explained that when she looked on Amazon.com she felt we had an excessive markup and she was never shopping with us again. This 70-year-old customer was truly convinced we were almost criminal in our pricing. Keep in mind she received 30% from us because of a one time per year promotion.
I must state that, in my opinion, our nutrition industry cannot succeed if we continue to support the companies who have no support for enforcing MAP pricing policies. I have monitored Amazon prices for two years now, and I have kept a list of the companies that allow these destructive discounts. I believe we as an industry have only one option to deal with the lack of policing on internet discounting.
Nutrition World has chosen to significantly rearrange the brands we have carried for decades to reduce or eliminate the companies who refuse to enforce a reasonable discounting policy.
I truly have no issue with 25% discounting but anything over 31% shows they have zero respect for brick and mortar retailers. I cannot seem to get past the idea that companies want us to train our staff, stock their products, educate the consumer on the benefits of their supplements and yet don’t get the unfairness of the fact that more and more consumers go home and hit the click button after we educate them, get the discount, and never to return to our business until they need more information.
I have had so many conversations with company owners and representatives and most of those who are on my “hit list” all have the same weak response, “We are trying but every time we stop one seller another springs up.”
This shows they actually are not trying! The only methods that appear to be effective are that each company must set up an Amazon account selling their own products on Amazon. This allows the company to have the bargaining power to force Amazon to stop the other sellers. Secondly is the hiring of outside agencies to monitor and enforce MAP warnings. Expecting company staff members to monitor Amazon as a side responsibility will never ever work. This is a full-time commitment or it will not be effective.
A rarely considered second harm to our industry is the number of counterfeit products being sold on Amazon. How long will it be before someone is gravely harmed by the ingestion of a bad product because it was counterfeit? Regardless of the eventual truth comes out that it was counterfeit, the headlines will still condemn us with the dangers of nutritional supplements.
The stark reality today is that customers need convenience and also desire the lowest prices and the Internet offers BOTH. If you only offer the brands in your store that respect your diligence and years of hard work by policing excessive discounting, you will retain most of your customer base instead of slowly watching them fade away to Internet land. In my opinion, it is insulting for companies who request us to educate consumers on their specific products only to watch as the customer never returns because they found it at wholesale prices delivered to their door! They are laughing all the way to the bank because we have become their professional salesman and they pay us zero! Folks, this is not rocket science, simply common sense.
I love this industry. We are a blessing to so many in this country, and we need to ensure that we will continue for many decades. Please not only take heed of this information, but join our alliance as we become a loud voice on behalf of fair pricing for all health store retailers.