Caroline Gooding is MD of As Nature Intended, a high street retailer of organic goods that sells fresh produce, meat, chilled goods, beer and wine. Its range extends to 5,000 product lines. As Nature Intended has three stores in Greater London and expanded beyond its southern base for the first time last August, opening a store in Hale, near Manchester.
How is business? The start of this year has gone very well. Sales have increased at all our stores and I'm very pleased, given the nature of the economy.
Which ranges are selling well and which aren't? We've added new gluten and dairy free-from sections and they are doing really well. Local food is also selling well, especially in Hale. Customers are very aware of their carbon footprint and want to support local farmers. Frozen organic is not huge for us but sales are good for basics such as ice cream, pizzas, prawns, peas and sweetcorn. However, we do tend to get stuck with broccoli and beans, and in the past frozen baby food has not sold particularly well. That said, we've recently taken on frozen ready meals from Manna Organic, and that's a top-end product that is selling surprisingly well. Natural remedies and skincare have massively increased, too. It's interesting to look at the sales patterns. There are definitely regional differences in what people buy. In London we sell lots of tofu, but it just doesn't sell in Hale.
Is price a concern? We are seeing lots of price increases and most of our suppliers have put one increase through, if not two, this year. It seems set to continue and that's quite worrying. But it's not just about price increases.
What else is worrying you? Availability is not good at all. We expect 95% availability from our suppliers and are getting 80% to 90% on average. On some deliveries we may only receive 50% of the items we've ordered. The industry as a whole doesn't have enough focus on availability, or on having the right systems in place to effectively measure it. Customers should be able to come into our stores with a list and always get 100% of the things on it.