Industry sector: Retail and wholesale

Health shop: What to sell

Most health shops sell a range of food items including some or all of the following:

  • cereals and pulses
  • organic fruit and vegetables
  • local produce, including organic and free range eggs
  • specialist vegetarian and vegan products including meat and dairy alternatives
  • products suitable for people with allergies and food intolerances
  • jams, nut butters, spreads and chutneys
  • nuts and seeds
  • dried fruits
  • herbs, spices and vegetable cooking oils
  • bread, cakes and pies
  • fruit and vegetable juices
  • mineral water
  • herbal teas
  • free range dairy products
  • fairly traded foods including cereals, coffee, tea and health bars

Specialist health shops often stock a wide range of other goods as well as food. You might decide to stock items such as:

  • vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements
  • preventative health treatments such as garlic capsules, ginseng, echinacea and so on
  • sports nutrients such as energy drinks and body building supplements
  • over-the-counter medicines
  • alternative treatments (such as aromatherapy oils and homeopathic remedies)
  • water softeners
  • cosmetics
  • cleaning products (for example eco-friendly washing powder and washing up liquid)
  • Fairtrade goods such as clothing and craft items
  • pet foods
  • gardening accessories
  • aromatic candles
  • books, CDs and DVDs

The range of items that you sell will depend on what type of shop you intend to run. Just stocking basic health foods and organic vegetables will put you in direct competition with large supermarkets and as they buy in bulk and have their own brand versions, it will be difficult to match their prices. To compete more effectively, you might decide to stock a wide range of non-food health products, which the mainstream stores are unlikely to sell. Stocking goods that are difficult to obtain elsewhere, such as an exclusive range of 'green' cosmetics, could also attract customers to your shop. What's more your market research may have identified a niche in the market that your shop can fill. For example, you might decide to specialise in homeopathic treatments.

Other goods and services

You might consider offering services such as a cafe or take-away counter for ready to eat food. Providing sandwiches or healthy lunch snacks can generate a lot of business if your shop is located in a suitable area, but remember that competition for the lunchtime market is often intense. Many customers are interested in a healthy lifestyle and related issues such as environmental matters and an eat-in area could prove a popular place for people to meet.

You could try other strategies - for example offering a delivery service for residents of local sheltered housing developments. Other services such as homeopathic consultation, advice on food allergies and intolerances, testing for dental mercury leakage or dietary advice would also attract customers. Training may be necessary to acquire relevant qualifications and skills that these services would need. This does mean, however, that the larger chain stores and non-specialised outlets are unlikely to offer such advice. If you are unable to provide advice and consultation services yourself, you might be able to refer customers to a local specialist, or perhaps host regular consultation times at your shop. On a more basic level, make sure that plenty of product leaflets, brochures and posters are available for interested customers.

Fluctuations in demand and seasonality

Many health shops find they are busiest during the period leading up to Christmas, when sales of healthy ingredients for Christmas meals and demand for luxury goods increase. Demand for certain items may fluctuate throughout the year. For example fruit drinks may sell well in summer, while sales of vitamins and remedies may increase during the winter. Overall, summer tends to be a quiet time for many health shops as regular customers go on holiday and alternative sources of fresh produce are available (for example home grown vegetables and pick-your-own fruit). The summer months may be particularly quiet in university towns and cities when the student population is absent. Shops in tourist areas, however, might find that summer is the busiest time of year. If you live in a tourist area, it would be a good idea to make the most of holiday customers, perhaps by stocking a wide range of gift items and luxury foods.

Seasonal promotions at other times of the year may also boost sales. Saturday tends to be the busiest day of the week so part time staff may need to be taken on to cope with demand.