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Retail is Quickly Dying – What Can Supplement Brands Do to Help?

by Matt Weik

For years now, brick-and-mortar retailers have been getting hit from all angles. Not only are they fighting with the big box locations that purchase in such high volume that it makes it next to impossible to compete on price, but now (more than ever), consumers are going directly to a brand’s website to make their purchases. What can supplement brands do to help their retail partners?

Here’s a Quick Story to Better Explain the Issue

Back when I was a regional manager for a supplement company, I would hear it all of the time from my gyms and supplement store accounts that they can’t compete with places like Walmart, Target, BJ’s, Sam’s Club, and Costco. And to be honest, I agreed with them. It made my job THAT MUCH harder when they would be purchasing a box of bars (12 bars) for around $18-24 to sell anywhere from $2.50-$5 per bar.

The issue was, people were already driving to the big box, FDM, and wholesale locations I mentioned above and buying the very same bars for $1 or $2 per bar while there shopping for all of their other household products. The smaller brick-and-mortar retailers don’t have a chance, and many of them feel like supplement brands are hanging them out to dry by giving their competitors down the street crazy low pricing.

People literally need to go out of their way to make a purchase from a supplement store these days. It’s not like heading to Target to purchase some cleaning supplies, maybe some groceries, decorations for your home, etc., and then grabbing a box of protein bars or the supplements you need while there.

Trust me, I see the issue from both sides of the fence, and it’s not a fun experience to witness. On one side, you care for your retail partners and specialty accounts with who you’ve become good friends with, but you have to side with the company that is signing your paycheck and isn’t going to budge on pricing for your accounts. So, what’s the best solution?

Don’t Forget About the Little Guys Who Helped Make You Big

I used to butt heads with the supplement company I worked for on a weekly basis over this issue. I was on the front-line taking shots due to the moves the company made to align themselves with FDM and give them preferential pricing. Pricing so low, my gym and supplement store accounts couldn’t even compete. I’d bring up ideas on how to help my retailers, but I would be pushed to the side and not given the resources needed to help my accounts. The supplement brand’s focus was clearly on FDM.

So, what can supplement brands do?

Show Some Love

For starters, they need to start showing more love and trying to push more local business to their gym and supplement store accounts. People are going to purchase from Target, Walmart, Costco, and all the other large retailers without supplement brands needing to advertise and market that their products are available at those locations – it’s basically expected these days.

And let’s face it, anyone can go online and Google a specific supplement or brand and see more online retailers than they ever imagined selling the products they’re looking for. But it’s harder for the smaller brick-and-mortar guys to get any play unless they are spending a ton of money on ads spread across the internet and social media – but then, at the same time, they would need to have a website where they can sell their products to really make it work (which all retailers should have a physical and online presence).

Retailer of the Week (or Month)

Why not run a monthly or weekly retail spotlight? Let it be a gym or supplement store and push it out via social media and through an email list. Work a deal with those retail partners where maybe you give 10-15% off an entire line of products for the week, and both the retailer and supplement brand split the discount down the middle, so everyone has some skin in the game (or whatever all parties agree upon).

If you’re a larger company, a weekly retail spotlight shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re a smaller supplement company, a monthly spotlight might be easier to manage. However, committing to a weekly retailer spotlight may light a fire under the supplement brand’s butt to get out there and open up some new doors.


Supplement brands should really consider starting demos again to help not only get the brand out there and in front of potential customers but also gain trial on their products as well. That’s the toughest thing these days when there is no shortage of supplement brands on the shelves and online. Both the supplement brands and retailers can promote the demo on their social media and leverage their email list to get the word out and drive people to a specific retailer. This is something that can be done on a weekly basis.

Demos would also be an excellent time to run some promotions to help get people in the door.

Save Small Businesses!

We need to save our small businesses from ultimately going out of business for good. Thankfully during 2020, even when COVID shut everything down, supplement stores and supplement brands were still able to stay open and were deemed “essential.” However, many people didn’t want to venture out and go into retail shops and preferred to order their things online.

It’s time to help bring back the brick-and-mortar business that has taken a hit over the years due to e-commerce and having supplement brands forget about them. These mom-and-pop supplement stores and gyms need your help. Support your local small businesses!

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