Niche Out Man, Niche Out – Part II – Expo West.
I should have had this blog post done some time ago, but that is how things work sometimes.
Blogging takes a back stage for many other things in my life. Expo West Natural Health show took place on the weekend of the 11th of March in Anaheim. This is a quick recap of that show.
Now, I think I do my best “work thinking” when I am away from the office and the nonsense and distractions of everyday office life. Less phone calls, less emails, less routine disruptions, less politics; just less of everything when you travel. More time to think, conceptualize, hunt, analyze, and more time to really make a differnernce for your work and hopefully for your stores and most importantly their customers; which is the most important part of the buyers job, find cool stuff for the stores to have for our customers.
As much as the disruptions that work travel can have on your personal life, as you are away from family and friends; and as much as it can throw your everyday work off and potentially really knock you back with respect to work load and timelines; the time that is spent out of the office and away from your desk can be the only things that really make a difference in the long term success your categories (remember I write this from the prospective of a category manager in retail). Travel is by far the best way to broaden your mind and fill your heart and soul with new and game changing ideas; again, whether that be for personal or profession endeavors.
So what did I see when I was at Expo West in Anaheim at the beginning of March?
The first thig that I noticed was the size of show! I have been to Expo West 8 times now over the passed 10 years and this year was the busiest that I have seen it! The show was packed – in fact it was irratiningly so! You could barely get around on the Friday – it was a zoo! The Natural Health Industry is most definatley healthy and in fact seemed to be booming! It was awesome! Lots of customers and lots of vendors. The was more new than I had seen in years and more innovation.
What was the flavor of the show for me?
I was impressed with the amount of focus this year on “cleaner” foods and hba (health and beauty aids) for lack of a better. Foods and hba with just less of everything in them. Less salt, less sugar, no p-nuts, no gluten, less artificial, less packaging etc… More natural, more organic, and more recycled packaging. There was more hba than I could ever remember and there was more ethnic than ever. The “international” pressence fealt very much like Fancy Foods Show.
Overall, just a great feel!
So what can we bring home to the actual stores?
What a show like this does is either solidify what you are doing or throw into question what you thought was right. It makes you think, analyze and reanalyze. The most important thing to ask o think about is this; “What did/does a show like this do for LD and it’s customers?”
What it shows me as a buyer is that we have hit some things bang on.
We were the first major retailer in Canada to take on the “Enjoy Life Brand” of products which are gluten, dairy, p-nut and a bunch of other things free! Gluten and p-nut free was everywhere at the show! We wereone of the first retailers of our size in Western Canada to see this trend and pounce on it. Helping a group of folks tha had limited options for tasty and better for you gluten free product. We now have numerous options for people who require or want gluten free. All a result of attending a show like Expo West.
The other categories or thongs that really stood out to me was within the area of packaging. Packaging in terms of what the packaging was made from, how much of it, and how much better it looked. The was so much more recycled packaging and there was packaging made from different ingredients. Corn based and other vege based packages. Pretty cool and more prevalent that I had anticipated.
The other great thing with respect to packaging was in the actual quality of “look”. Natural products have typically lagged (don’t throw just one or two examples of the ones that have always looked good – I am speaking in general terms :)) the everyday consumer packaged goods industry. I think in many respects to their detriment. Tne insides have been great, the outside, well…. I was happy to see brands like Zhena’s Gypsy Teas looking great and really showing folks how to package as well as any International CPG company. Enjoy Life changing their loom and really hitting the mark. Nature’s Path downsizing and reharmonizing their entire look. These companies are really showing their stuff!! They continue to look natural, they have not “become” one in the samne as the traditional brands, and they are really showing why they are different; they are just doing it better in better looking skin (package).
Looking good folks!
This show, or any show like this, will always force a buyer to hunt and really try and find something new and cool. It’s all about “niching out man!”. Trying to find those couple of things that will really connect with your consumer and that will make them want to come back to you.
I will make one final comment about this show and most shows that we go to in the States, or anywhere in the world for that matter.
One question that I do get asked frequently by co-workers, family and friends is this: “You talk about the cool stuff you see, you talk about all of the great ideas that you get, but I don’t see all of the things you talk about hit the stores, what happened?”
The main challenge that Canadian Retailers will have is with respect to the packaging requirements that we have in Canada. English/French is a requirement for us only and American companies would rather not deal with us more times than not because of that reason alone. There is also the issue with the nutritional panel on food items. Again it’s the language and our panel is different in how it displays nutritional facts. Many of the products may have claims that Health Canada will only allow to be stated if the products go through a different branch or branches of Canada. Finally, many products have ingredients that may either not be allowed into Canada. As you can see, there can be many issues. More than just the four I listed above.
Anyway, Please come in and check out our stores over the next months and see if you can see the new stuff that we have found or see if you can see the stuff that inspired me at the show.
Hope you are as excited as I am!
Ciao for now @kootenayborn