Demand for and sales of organics, fair trade and whole food products have increased over the last 6-12 months for Vancouver, Canada retailer Choices Markets. Recent stats in a Canada Organic Trade Association study stated that 57% of Canadians intend to buy organics each week.
Choices Markets, considered one of the top natural health foods retailers in the country and British Columbia’s largest operation, are seeing more customers and more sales per customer. With seven stores in Vancouver, including a rice bakery offering wheat- alternative baked goods, and a store in Kelowna, B.C., the retailer excels in smaller format stores that range from 5,000 – 20,000 sq ft.
A sister company with separate management and sales teams, Canadian Choices Imports CCW, brings selected products from abroad and sells them not only at the Choices stores, but across the country to many other retailers and distributors.
Choices CEO, Mr. Ishkandar Ahmed says a growing segment of the population is turning to healthy living and eating and they need advice and assistance as they embark on this journey to wellness. “Sales are growing year over year at Choices, so we’re definitely able to compete with the larger chains. There’s a large market presence in BC for high-quality, local organic foods and we’ve positioned our company accordingly,” Mr. Ahmed says.
The stores offer a warm, inviting atmosphere and a wide range of organic, sustainable, fair trade and GMO free foods throughout all departments. “We are noted for our fresh offerings around the perimeter of the store, our emphasis on buying local especially when it comes to produce (in season), meat and fish,” Mr. Ahmed says, adding that Choices is also well known for knowl- edgeable staff in its health and body care departments and the side selection of well priced products.
Choices Markets plans on opening new outlets and is constantly refurbishing stores, including a major renovation on its flagship outlet at Kitsilano in the past year, which expanded and introduced a new salad bar area to the deli, an all-new Floral Shop (that acts as a separate store), an event/seminar room featuring state of the art technology with multiple cameras and screens, wireless microphones, video recording and comfortable seating for 50 and an expanded back area for internal staff.
“This location was the first Choices and has a huge amount of loyal customers from the Kitsilano region of Vancouver,” Mr. Ahmed says. “So far customer reaction has been positive. They love our new event/seminar space and our salad bars have always been highly ranked across the city for their selection of fresh greens, vegetables and dressings”.
Being a smaller independent, Choices is able to maintain its grassroots feel and work intimately with the local community, which also allows the retailer to quickly adapt to industry change and proactively start trends (like offering in-house gluten-free products) before the larger competitors, Mr Ahmed adds. “We’ve always been proud of our leadership role in natural, organic and specialty foods and will continue this focus. And our smaller size allows us to bring in exceptional local products that larger stores simply can’t bring in because the supplier can’t meet their minimum order requirements,” he says.
Choices Markets has a nutritionist or dietician available in the stores, which is a very popular service for the customers. Known as Choices Dieticians, they provide shoppers and staff with advice on healthy eating and offer free educational store tours, where they walk customers through the aisles and point out foods that will help with particular issues. Also offered are free in-store seminars with healthcare practitioners and celebrity chefs.
An overall focus on exceptional customer service and product presentation by Choices Markets engages with and allows customers to have a positive experience, which Choices finds has led to strong loyalty over time.