While implementing changes to the market, you may encounter the following common problems. Be prepared to connect your partner storeowner to solutions + resources. Whenever possible, reinforce how much you value the store and its contribution to the community's health, by showing up, volunteering to help, and of course, by being a loyal customer.
Common Problem #1: INFRASTRUCTURE
- Lack of or poorly functioning refrigeration units
- Poor/nonexistent marketing
- Lack of clearly displayed + consistent prices
- Lack of convenient access to healthy food supply
- For stores with no floor space or capacity for a refrigerator, the alternative is a moveable produce display rack for produce not requiring refrigeration (such as bananas).
- Look into business incentives, such as business improvement loans or grants through your alderman, city council, local elected representative's office or your local Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) or Community Development Agency (CDA.
- Seek technical assistance to grow business capacity.
- Contact your local chamber of commerce.
- Contact your elected representative directly to find out what unused resources may be available.
- Work with local food access groups to identify additional resources and help promote your partner market.
- Look for official institutional partners. Ask them to sign on to the project.
Common Problem #2: VENDOR CONTRACTS
- Terms and conditions vary, but these are hard for storeowners to resist. They provide product discounts, complimentary display units + marketing signeage, as well as free labor (regular delivery + stocking).
- Find out specifics of existing vendor contracts + strategically work around them.
- Identify healthier items within existing vendor product lines + encourage the storeowner to carry them.
- Offset marketing of unhealthy food with eye-catching signeage + promotional material that call attention to healthier items.
- Schedule times when coalition members can volunteer to help out at the store (especially with stocking + displaying healthier items).
Common Problem #3: AFFORDABLE, CONVENIENT ACCESS TO HEALTHY FOOD SUPPLY
- Connect the storeowner with local wholesale retailers. Keep in mind that some wholesalers have minimum case requirements that may exceed your store's capacity or budget and that they may charge a delivery fee that increases the sale price of produce items.
- Help facilitate regular produce delivery, if possible, or access to a vehicle large enough to pick up produce from the retailer.
- Partner with local farmers to distribute locally-sourced produce. Scout local farmers' markets for prospective suppliers.
Common Problem #4: HIGHER PRICES
- Small markets generally charge higher prices, due to lower volume, which they in turn pass on to consumers.
- A Corner Store Association can provide strength in numbers. Because they are unable to purchase inventory in volume like larger stores, corner markets pay higher prices which they must pass on to the consumer. Developing a corner store association can help owners leverage their collective buying power. They can purchase their merchandise from local farmers or a distributor working with local farmers’ markets who can obtain produce at below wholesale prices.
- Develop "champion storeowners" who serve as spokespeople for market makeovers. These leaders can provide peer-to-peer advocacy to recruit additional stores for conversion. Identifying a storeowner as a spokesperson confirms an agency’s or coalition's credibility. They can provide first-hand testimonials from a businessowner's perspective, speaking with authority to fellow storeowners about the process, challenges and opportunities of undertaking a market makeover.
- When promoting your converted market to potential customers, urge them to factor in the cost of transportation + time spent in transit when they compare these higher prices with those of larger chain supermarkets located farther away. When taken into account, these factors may make the convenient, nearby corner market a more affordable + attractive place to shop.
Common Problem #5: PROFITABILITY OF UNHEALTHY FOODS
- This is a huge obstacle. Small markets rely heavily on sales of processed, convenience foods with a long shelf-life + sizable profit margin to stay in business. Fresh produce, by comparison, goes bad, is more expensive to stock, and consequently offers lower returns.
- Demonstrate to the storeowner that there is consistent demand for healthy inventory. Work to deliver regular customers.
- Counteract this problem with strategic, consistent, grassroots efforts to create customer demand + increase sales of healthier inventory. See Marketing + Promotion for tips.
- WIC (Women Infants and Children) can do wonders. Boost the bottom line by signing up. See HOW.