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The Natural Grocer, Woodbridge, Virginia – Education Builds Customer Loyalty

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— July 15, 2018

The Natural Grocer, Woodbridge, Virginia – Education Builds Customer Loyalty

  • The 2,500-square-foot store, located off Interstate 95, opened 26 years ago. Kim says it carries about 8,000 items, including herbs, vitamins, and supplements from major manufacturers. In addition, a grocery section includes organic and vegetarian options, as well as a big variety of gluten-free foods.
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“I give my customers homework,” says Joseph Kim, owner of The Natural Grocer in Woodbridge, Virginia. At checkout, Kim hands them one of the free magazines—including Discover Life—distributed through the store. “They like it,” he reports. “They will come back and say, ‘Okay, I did my homework, and I need this,’” indicating a supplement or herb with benefits explained in the magazine.

The 2,500-square-foot store, located off Interstate 95, opened 26 years ago. Kim says it carries about 8,000 items, including herbs, vitamins, and supplements from major manufacturers. In addition, a grocery section includes organic and vegetarian options, as well as a big variety of gluten-free foods. “We’re not just selling products, though,” Kim points out. “We’re about individual care.” That’s why Kim and his knowledgeable staff pride themselves on acting more as consultants than salespeople. They are happy to explain why a particular product is useful for a customer’s needs, how similar products differ and why there’s a price difference between similar items, and provide other detailed information to help people make purchasing decisions. “That’s why we have loyal customers who keep coming back,” Kim says. “We have a lot of steady customers.” When someone comes in for assistance, Kim says the first thing he asks about is the customer’s lifestyle. “Maybe they need to make changes in their lifestyle if they’re having problems. Diet is very important too, and balanced nutrition. If someone is having trouble, maybe they should get off sugar. Too much wheat or dairy can cause long-term problems. Watch what you eat and how big your portions are. And of course, you have to exercise.” To help balance nutrition, Kim usually recommends a high-quality multivitamin. “What else to take depends on what specific conditions you have,” he notes. “A lot of customers have trouble with high blood pressure and cholesterol. They have seen a doctor for years and years. If it’s not helping, why do it? It’s time to change to a natural remedy.”

For example, he recommends red yeast rice, a traditional Chinese remedy, for cholesterol issues. (His own strategies for maintaining wellness are to stay optimistic and to keep to a regular schedule.) Kim interrupts a conversation to aid a customer looking for liquid vitamin C for her granddaughter’s guinea pig. In the background, classical music is playing. When he returns to the phone, he confirms that classical is the store’s music of choice. “We play it all the time, and on Saturday, we play religious music. When you play classical, customers relax and enjoy it. They like shopping and listening at the same time. When you’re relaxed, you can enjoy talking and getting information.” Kim finds that customers who have a long history of using supplements and herbs gravitate naturally toward alternative remedies when serious medical conditions arise. For people trying out such remedies for the first time, the body may take a while to respond. He has confidence in the products the store carries. “We are picky because our customers are picky, quality-wise,” he said. “Knowing that, we can recommend certain things. The quality of the vitamins—that’s another reason people keep coming back.” In fact, The Natural Grocer relies more on the quality of its products than its marketing. Although the store has a Facebook page, it doesn’t have a website, and there are no plans to build one. Business, Kim says, is just fine without it.

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