There are benefits to buying online, but there are also some grave concerns with the direction of online purchases. Big box stores might claim to be interested in consumer demand and start stocking health products, but is that really so? And will they be there at the same prices when their small business competitors are gone?
Supporting health food stores is not just about buying local – there are more benefits and in many cases, lower prices. Yes, buying local can resuscitate your local economy, but here are some other reasons to visit your health food store.
1.) Bulk Buys/Coupons/Sales – Most health food stores offer discounts on bulk buys. If you can buy ahead and store you could receive discounts better than online outlets in many cases. Examples - kombucha and cheese.
These local places struggle for many reasons – they really want your business and want to continue doing what they love in service of better health for you. They are willing to take a hit when product doesn’t move. You could be missing out on something you normally pay a lot for if you aren’t involved in their sales promotions. Owners like to reward their regular customers and have the authority to do so.
2.) Nothing beats tactile shopping – It’s true that online places are offering better images and ingredients listing, but there is something to be said about holding the product, checking the box yourself and having a hunch either way. Plus, what you don’t see online are the reasons the health food store may or may not carry that particular brand – they may know some behind-the-scenes info about the product and they usually test the product on themselves. This is the place to find out about new products. Sizing is also easier to see at the store. Getting individual help from a person who doesn’t make commission is also valuable. A product placed online is mainly about that brand’s marketing, and big box stores carry poor quality supplements. Many times, I have found high-quality items only available through that store, and nowhere else, not even online. Speaking of which...
3.) Health food stores are interested in YOU – There may be some health food stores who only care about sales and I believe they won’t be around long. A local, bad reputation cannot compete for long. And imagine how frustrated consumers would be when they never see results after repeated recommendations. Health food store managers know that if you find something that works and get better, you’ll be back to the store. They keep what works. Their interests lie in you, not brand sales. Essentially, you control "the cream of the crop." Whereas the big dogs can practice business however they please (and topple the very system they claim to support), the health food store is listening. One store made headlines recently for hiring a full-time employee to check for GMO ingredients. That's a real dedication to patron concerns.
4.) Fun events – Do you ever think “there’s nothing to do in my town?” That may be mostly true except more and more health food stores are where it’s at. They know that by sponsoring events they can expect more traffic and shopper camaraderie. They are moving away from "just sales" and reaching toward education and fellowship. I saw one doing a free showing of Genetic Roulette, others might have sample days, workshops, speakers and healthcare practitioners. Don’t miss out on doing something fun, getting informed and meeting like-minded people. Or perhaps, you are that person that could provide an event and gain more recognition.
5.) During an emergency need, you’ll wish there was a store – There’s nothing like being able to “run up to the store” when you need something. For instance, if you are getting flu symptoms you could easily obtain homeopathic flu nosodes before the virus sets in. Waiting for even the quickest shipping is still too long in this case. Or you may need colloidal silver during an acute infection. Health food stores are a lifeline, and they can assist preparedness needs. Speaking of self-sufficiency - it's almost like the modern healthcare debacle is pushing people into the natural health care arena. What else can a person do anymore to get conventional treatment? It's like a disappearing luxury. So we'd better keep our other options...
6.) The healthcare practitioner is in – More and more health food stores can be choosy about their employees because lots of people would like to work in a positive environment. And, education in the natural healthcare field is booming. Therefore, many of the employees are experts in their field – nutrition, kinesiology, homeopathy, you name it … I went to a store recently where a certified kinesiologist (muscle tester) was right there to test the products on people's bodies. This way, I avoided bad purchases - the ones that tested "false" and made my body go weak. This is prime help for someone who may have an auto-immune problem and, for instance, should not take Echinacea but might do well with other immune boosters.
7.) Unlikely alliances - "The point on the ideological spectrum where far left bohemians and right-wing fundamentalists meet - is at the health food store."* Is there any other type of store that brings the most eclectic types of people together? This is the best place to people-watch. You might recall an episode of King of the Hill where conservative Hank Hill had to deal with neo-hippies like Appleseed at the co-op so he could finally get some good organic steaks and veggies. What happened when he put his annoyances aside and began using his skills to help them? The non-profit store turned ... a profit, and ran more efficiently. As soon as "Mega-lo-Mart" was the big shot in town, it immediately replaced local meats with poor-quality packaged/shipped meats, making good food nearly impossible to find.
There's something about the focal point of the health food store that compels people to lay arms at the door - we're all there for an important need - our health! There is "no respect of persons." You never know what kinds of connections you will make, what kinds of resources you will stumble on or share.
8.) Once they're gone, we're SOL, surely out of luck - If these small places fall, they won't be back. Many of them have cut their grocer sections because they couldn't compete with the likes of Walmart - and then what happens? Walmart can increase prices and cut the organic selection or only provide low quality.
There is a systemic problem that sets up every possible obstacle for a small business practice. Instead of thinking that you are paying for extra overhead costs, you might think of it in another way - I'm not supporting a corporation that will raise prices when our small shops close down; I'm not paying for outsourcing and worker abuse; I'm not paying for poor quality. You might be the one to demand changes in your city so that in a dumped economy, at the very least, a person can fill that empty building.
The greater agenda of global Codex Alimentarius has already made sweeping supplement bans in the EU and is on bated breath waiting to do that in North America - this is the biggest reason why naturopathy, health foods, health food stores and the like are facing bigger pressures. Add to that the bigger Internet, health freedom and small business clamps coming from the pending Trans Pacific Partnership and we've got a barren landscape coming to a neighborhood near you. Having to rely on Internet sales and the "Mega-lo-marts" of the world (both that will gladly follow global orders, not caring a wit about the consumer) is not health freedom - it is not freedom of choice.
Image - Camille Lamb
* - a satirical quote from the movie Paradise Recovered
Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com and ActivistPost.com. Like at Facebook.