The Vitamin Shoppe Helps its Customers Live Their Best Lives
CEO Sharon Leite says each store’s “Health Enthusiasts” have a genuine desire to help others.
When people need health advice, they usually seek out the opinions of experts. To meet this need, The Vitamin Shoppe staffs each of its locations with its “Health Enthusiasts,” who know exactly what they are talking about.
Each employee undergoes extensive product category training, which includes a robust curriculum of courses designed to elevate their expertise in need-based solutions and services. This product-education best practice is continuous throughout a Health Enthusiast’s career at The Vitamin Shoppe. CEO Sharon Leite adds that the company carefully vets its associates to ensure they are the right fit for The Vitamin Shoppe.
“When you meet our Health Enthusiasts, they have a genuine desire to help others,” she says, adding that they also come with a passion for the stores’ products, which include high-quality supplements, proteins, superfoods and natural beauty products. “We can teach them everything else.”
Founder Jeffrey Horowitz started The Vitamin Shoppe in 1977 with a single location in Manhattan. Over the years, the company has grown to operate more than 750 stores nationwide that sell products from approximately 700 national brands, including its own proprietary labels.
This December, Franchise Group Inc., the operator of several retailers, including Sears Outlet, Liberty Tax and Buddy’s Home Furnishings, acquired The Vitamin Shoppe. According to Leite, Franchise Group is a good match for the company, which is in the process of re-tooling its business.
When The Vitamin Shoppe originally went public in 2009, it enjoyed a steady rise. But since 2013, the business has faced challenges from increased competition in the health and wellness space. Leite believes that Franchise Group will help in its ongoing turnaround by providing greater flexibility and resources to evolve as an innovative leader in the category.
“They were very interested in our business and saw the potential for growth and building long-term value,” she says. “There is tremendous opportunity in the health and wellness space, which is consistently growing in exciting new directions.”
Road to Recovery
During its turnaround, The Vitamin Shoppe has sought to rebuild itself to be more relevant for the customers of today and the future. “It’s about becoming more of a lifestyle brand,” Leite says. “We have a very strong commitment to helping our customers live their best lives and we’re doing everything we can to live up to that goal.”
Recently, The Vitamin Shoppe launched its Only Me brand, which provides clients with a personalized online assessment that is followed by a custom assortment of vitamins and supplements to participating subscribers. These packs are uniquely designed for individual wellness regimens that are tailored to each customer’s needs.
The Vitamin Shoppe also has introduced its Innovation store format at its locations in Edgewater, N.J., and Turkey Creek, Tenn. These stores bring a new vision to wellness retail, incorporating technology-driven innovations in product, service and education, while elevating the customer journey through a simplified modern design and personalized elements. These include on-demand digital product guides, a body composition analysis station, a supplement sampling machine and an in-store Only Me health bar.
“The response to the new store format has been extremely positive,” Leite reports. “We have provided tools, resources and technology to aid the customer on their shopping journey and help them understand their own health goals and needs.”
Under Leite’s leadership, The Vitamin Shoppe also has become the only national retailer to currently sell ingestible CBD hemp extract products. Today, it has CBD hemp extract in 515 stores, with 20 top brands across capsules, softgels, liquids, sprays, powders, drinks, topicals and beauty items – and plans to grow distribution to additional stores in 2020.
“It’s something that our customers were asking for,” she says. “When they ask for a product, we want to meet their needs and exceed them.”
The Vitamin Shoppe’s recent initiatives also include the relaunch of its Healthy Rewards loyalty program, which provides members with more earning potential, exclusive benefits and rewards. According to Leite, a majority of the company’s sales come from Healthy Rewards members.
The company also has entered two new sales channels, including shop-in-shops at Navy Exchange stores. “We have a great number of military consumers that shop with us,” Leite says. “It’s an opportunity to be on naval bases around the globe.”
The Vitamin Shoppe also has partnered with LA Fitness to have stores within its locations, allowing the retailer to reach new and existing customers. Since November, nine of these shops have opened. “These shops provide the health-conscious members of LA Fitness easy access to their favorite sports nutrition and supplement products, as well as the exceptional expertise and guidance of our Health Enthusiasts,” Leite says. “This initiative represents an innovative new channel of distribution for The Vitamin Shoppe with great potential for growth.”
The Journey Ahead
Leite sees a healthy future ahead for The Vitamin Shoppe, which will continue embodying its brand pillars of quality, innovation and expertise. “The customer can have the best products possible to help them on their wellness journey,” she says.
The growth of its proprietary brands — which include The Vitamin Shoppe®, BodyTech®, BodyTech Elite®, True Athlete®, plnt® and ProBioCare® — plays a key role in that mission. The company recently launched a new line of premium vitamins and supplements under the Vthrive brand, with clean formulations that are free from magnesium stearate, stearic acid and titanium dioxide.
The Vitamin Shoppe also plans to continue its philanthropic work with Vitamin Angels, which focuses on eliminating malnutrition in mothers and children. The company has raised more than $13 million for the Santa Barbara-based charity, which has impacted over 50 million people within the U.S. and around the world.
It is evident that in her 16 months at the helm of The Vitamin Shoppe, Leite has launched a range of ambitious initiatives to transform The Vitamin Shoppe into a more agile, customer-first retailer. While challenges remain, from heightened competition to shifting consumer behavior online, she says the opportunities are rich for a heritage brand like The Vitamin Shoppe to modernize and become a uniquely trusted resource in the ever-evolving wellness marketplace.