News for Retailers

Better Retailing Magazine Secret Shopper Award results announced

The Better Retailing Magazine Awards are run in conjunction with the Health Food Institute to reward excellence in health food retailing. Every year, our Secret Shoppers visit around a dozen stores and mark them in five sections – first impressions, store layout, personal attention, check out and overall impression.

Our winning store is Chester Health Store. Our Secret Shopper said: "It's a small but well presented store and I'm impressed by the friendliness and knowledge of the store's owner."

This year's runners up are Almonds & Raisins in Newcastle and Hansa in Guernsey.

Look out for the next issue of Better Retailing Magazine where we talk to the winners.

Going cashless?

Two years ago, the UK passed the tipping point of more electronic than cash payments. Sometime in 2018, more than 20% of online transactions are likely to be made through mobile devices, according to PwC. But a report from market research company Mintel warns that only a third of consumers would be comfortable with a cashless society.

Rise of the independent

An increase in new high street independents across the UK has yet to affect the overall number of health stores but the signs are encouraging.

Data from the Local Data Company (LDC) and the British Independent Retailers Association (bira) shows that significantly more traditional independent shops were opened in the first half of 2017 compared with 2016.

A net increase of 562 independent shops on the high street is a significant improvement (+181%) on the first half of 2016 when there was virtually no net increase.

Meanwhile national chains continued to see a decline with a net loss of -659 shops (-0.33%) in the first half of 2017, which compares to -2,001 shops (-1.02%) in the same period of 2016.

According to LDC, there are around 850 independent health food stores in the UK plus 206 in Ireland, with the number of openings and closures keeping pace with each other. The figures are significantly higher if sports nutrition stores and organic farm shops are included.

Dairy falters

Dairy sales in Western Europe are stagnating, according to research analyst Euromonitor. Sales stood at just over €96bn which is a tiny increase in compound annual growth rate of 0.27%, due to evolving consumer attitudes and concern over dairy’s ‘wellbeing credentials’.

Happy birthday, Sunshine!

Not many UK health stores have been trading for 90 years – and neither is there anyone in the trade who has been collecting old health food and herbal packaging and advertising for the last 60 or so years.

Sunshine Health in Stroud was opened by Lilian Wolfe in 1927 and, after passing through the hands of two subsequent owners, was bought by the Hill Family in 1987.

Today there are two shops – organic, vegan and gluten-free food in the Church Street store and supplements, toiletries and cosmetics in the Sunshine Natural Health & Body Care shop in the High Street.

There were just four staff in 1987 but now under the industry’s ‘godfather’ Ray Hill there are 50, including Ray’s three sons and four grandchildren running the shops, organic bakery, natural dispensary for practitioners and the production of Thompson’s Slippery Elm Food – in itself a 100-year-old product!

Ray also curates the unique museum which houses the history of health food and herbal products of the last century.

Organic marketplace

Soil Association Certification was supporting all organic businesses at Christmas with an online Organic Collective Christmas marketplace:

Following the success of Organic September, which saw the organic market grow by 7.1% in the 30 days of September, up from an average of 4.2% to the end of August 2017 (Nielsen Scantrack), the marketplace gives all Soil Association Certification licensees a platform to showcase their products, driving further traffic to retailers.

Major new Irish show announced

Health Stores Ireland, formerly the Irish Association of Health Stores, has announced a major consumer show after a year’s break from hosting a natural health exhibition. Vitality Expo 2018 will be held at the RDS Dublin on September 8 and 9 in collaboration with the Independent News & Media Group (INM).

Chair Mary Wedel says: “The relaunch of the annual consumer/trade show, with the exciting collaboration of national media organisation INM, will give us the perfect platform to highlight the independent health food trade and our collaboration with many terrific Irish artisans."

Ireland’s only consumer and trade-focused natural health exhibition will showcase new products from natural health suppliers, headline the latest natural health trends, and offer tips and expert advice from well-known figures in Ireland and beyond.

Both Better Retailing Magazine and sister title Rude Health will be playing an integral part in the Vitality Expo event with exciting news to be announced soon.

Stronger Together – NAHS joins bira

The National Association of Health Stores has borrowed the Democrats’ election slogan in its alliance with a national retailing association.

By joining the family of trade associations under the British Independent Retailers Association (bira) umbrella, the NAHS is trumpeting the ‘Stronger Together’ mantra.

A three-year plan designed to increase benefits, standards, education, profile, proliferation and communication is underway, including membership of bira with its 6,500 independent retailers.

That means a stronger voice and access to more than 30 services including a legal advice line, its own bank and money-saving benefits.

NAHS Chairman Gary Trickett (pictured) says: “Without a doubt, NAHS and bira will be stronger together.”

Rupy Aujla to speak at HFI awards

Dr. Rupy Aujla, an NHS doctor who runs The Doctor’s Kitchen website, will be the headline speaker on ‘Food is Medicine’ at the Health Food Institute’s annual awards luncheon.

The date for your diary is Thursday March 15 at Royal Over-Seas House, Park Place, off St. James’s Street, London (10.30am for 11am start, concludes 3pm).

Tickets cost £45 for retailers, HFI Fellows and Members, everyone else £50 from Alison Collingwood, email

Jason gets there in the end

Jason Henderson ought to receive a special award come the Health Food Institute’s annual awards in the Spring. It’s taken him 11 years to complete the HFI Professional Diploma Part One.

The owner of Elixir Health Foods, Wadebridge, began what was then the HFI Certificate Course in April 2006 and doesn’t object to having the Mickey taken – “I’ve set an example to other HFI students to know they can get there in the end, too!” says the former teacher.

If Jason (pictured) takes the Part Two Diploma, we estimate that he will finish it in 2031.

Vegan trade show debuts in London

Vegfest Trade, the UK’s first vegan Trade show at Olympia, attracted around 130 exhibitors and 80 speakers showcasing the best of veganism to around 700 trade and media delegates in October.

Panel discussions included a Vegan Business Support zone for small business owners, an Independent Retailers Lounge for shop owners, a Plant-Based Chefs Corner for those from the catering sector, a Vegan Bodycare Pavilion for bodycare and beauty professionals, a Vegan Health Clinic for health professionals, and a Vegan Celebrity Zone tailored to the Media sector.

Organic surge

A whopping 70% of European consumers say they are buying ‘healthy’ food and more than half of them say they are buying organic, an increase of 35% in three years. A survey by analyst IRI of 2,600 shoppers in seven European countries, including the UK, also showed vegetarian food sales up 36% in the same three years with ‘freefrom’ not far behind.

Videos promote health stores

The National Association of Health Stores has commissioned five videos to help promote independent health stores, made by Green TV. They can be viewed on the NAHS UK You Tube channel.

NAHS has also set up a new domain which links to the Association’s website to help the public find their nearest NAHS member store. This domain is promoted in the videos.

The main video is entitled 'We are the Independent Health Stores of the UK' with further films promoting A Healthy Mind, Bag Loads of Energy, Healthy Immunity and Healthy Hair Skin and Nails.

A three-year plan has been actioned to increase benefits, standards, education and communication.

Read more news in the latest issue of Better Retailing

Read news stories from previous issues of Better Retailing here