Retailers play the wellness game

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Wellness has taken shape as a major player in the retail industry. Expense is not an issue when it comes to mental or physical health: Changes in consumer preferences, the emergence of unique influencers and the power of social media have changed the rules of the market. Today, retailers play a different game.

At NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show, a panel moderated by Steve Barr, consumer markets leader for PwC, featured Kate Ross LeBlanc, co-founder and CEO of Saje Natural Wellness, Rich Pierson, co-founder and CEO of Headspace, and author and wellness pioneer Rich Roll discussing the wellness revolution and its effect on consumer behavior.

These individuals provide their customers with what they themselves needed at some point in their lives: self-care. LeBlanc started her career in retail at a young age at her mother’s store, where she created a sense of community and connection; LeBlanc and her husband started their own business after he used natural products to cope with a series of health issues.

Pierson found himself in what has become a very common situation: Successful on the outside but miserable on the inside — until a friend introduced him to meditation. Headspace was born not too long after. Similarly, Roll had a very successful career but somehow left his inner self along the way. His own self-improvement journey led to a new life as an ultra-distance endurance athlete, three books and a popular podcast.

In a fast-paced and impersonal world, “we starve for connecting with something that is real,” Roll said, to the point where “trust and authenticity are the new currency.” Consumers want brands that are real, honest and authentic.

What else characterizes the wellness consumer? The profile of a modern consumer gives the answer: long work hours and expectations of immediate gratification and affordable products. Headspace responded by providing consumers with a meditation app, no equipment needed. Roll created podcasts that would educate consumers whenever they wanted for free; Ross connects and educates her customers while providing them with natural remedies. All satisfy the human need for a personal and human connection immediately, affordably and educationally.

LeBlanc recalled “romantic memories” of retail and said she expresses the same feelings through the Saje in-store experience: a human connection. Back then, they “didn’t call it customer service,” she said. “It was treating your customer well.”

“People need guidance and support throughout the [self-care] process,” Pierson said. “They need to feel like they’re not alone.”

It’s a big world and retail is a big industry, but sometimes all consumers want to do is feel loved and unique.

STORES’ Student Correspondent Paula Fernandez Martinez studies marketing and graphic design at Parsons School of Design.

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