Joel Patterson of Nature's Green Grocer believes access to healthy, affordable food should be a right, not a privilege. Here, he shares tips for building a loyal customer base.
At Nature’s Green Grocer, the natural products store he opened in 2008, Joel Patterson works to provide nutritious options at every price point and has even developed an in-store rewards program to put cash back in shoppers’ wallets during tough economic times. We spoke to Patterson to learn how these efforts have helped Nature’s Green Grocer build a loyal customer base.
Natural Foods Merchandiser: How are you able to offer competitive prices?
Joel Patterson: A lot of distributors give volume discounts. At Nature’s Green Grocer, we pass those discounts on to our customers. We also offer a rewards program. Whenever someone shops with us, we give them back 5 percent of their purchase dollars. If someone spends $100, they get back $5, for example. Customers can redeem reward dollars whenever they want, and the rewards never expire. It’s helped us build loyalty.
NFM: Has the program helped boost sales?
JP: Absolutely. We’ve been offering rewards for two years now and have noticed that we’re seeing more new shoppers. People come in specifically asking to sign up for the program because they’ve heard about it from friends or family. We’ve also seen average basket sizes increase. Customers who used to spend between $30 and $35 per visit now spend $40 to $45.
NFM: A big issue with healthy food is accessibility. What are you doing on that front?
JP: A lot of independent natural foods retailers don’t take food stamps. We do. Even though it can be a headache, it’s important. We also offer educational classes to help people understand the nutritional value of certain foods and how that translates monetarily. People don’t realize that food can be a source of vitality. We place value on things like nice cars and big houses, but not always on nutrition.
NFM: What kinds of classes do you offer?
JP: We have a class that focuses on our bulk section—one of the most affordable areas in our store. We’ve found that a lot of people don’t understand bulk. They think it’s dirty or confusing. This section has a lot of raw ingredients, and people don’t know what to do with them. To make this section more accessible, we offer week-long meal plans with recipes that incorporate bulk items.
Another class we offer helps people understand how different fruits and vegetables benefit the body. We offer samples, and it’s not uncommon to hear, “Wow, I’ve never tasted a pear or pepper or apple like this before. This is amazing.” We incorporate our organic produce in various dishes and give participants recipes and a shopping list. I think this approach helps them connect that while they’re going to spend money on these ingredients, there’s also a lot of inherent value.
5,000 sq. ft. (Peterborough)
25,000 sq. ft. (Nashua)
Open since: 2008
Nature’s Green Grocer
374 Union St.
Peterborough, NH 03458
341 Amherst St.
Nashua, NH 03458