Business Development - Wild Oats, Bristol

The staff at Wild Oats in Bristol went ‘wild’ when their store was named Best Independent Retailer at Natural & Organic Products Europe.

The measure of meaningful business development is not sudden spikes in profit due to a clever promotion or a message going viral on social media.

Rather it’s the steady-as-she-goes, month-on-month, year-on-year growth – and a positive attitude when the opposition comes to town.

Wild Oats has been a West Country beacon of pragmatic health food retailing for 35 years and there isn’t a more worthy winner of the annual Best Independent award. Justifiable it may have been, but owner Mike Abrahams and his 26 team players received the news with unbridled joy.

Like many city independents, Wild Oats’ competition is nearby supermarkets trying to tap into organic, fair trade and healthy food, plus Holland & Barrett which often refers customers to Wild Oats, while two other independents are not far away.

But Mike and his team have also remained stable while others have come and gone, especially when Out Of This World and Fresh and Wild (later Wholefoods Markets) were in town.

In both cases, Mike tried everything to compete while these retailers were on his doorstep, and in both cases Wild Oats bounced back to even greater growth when they closed down.

Since then, growth has been steady and consistent thanks to carefully planned measures including:

  • Careful staff selection and development.
  • Delegating authority down the line as far as possible and fostering a greater sense of staff belonging.
  • Marketing campaigns including leaflets with voucher redemption.
  • Store refit and improvements.
  • Email and social media campaigns.
  • Tastings, free sampling and meetand- greet events.

“For us, the challenge is to stay on our toes, continuing to pioneer the leading edge of the market and increase our standards of quality and service to a growing number of customers,” says Mike.

What the staff say:

“Our wonderful customers and suppliers are more like friends, and have shared in our delight at this award. Organic champagne all round!”
– Pam Buckle, Department Head of Natural Supplements

“Wild Oats has immense integrity at its heart. That integrity filters down from the owners, Mike and Loes, through to departmental managers and onto the shop floor. We’re the longest running health food shop in Bristol, enjoying a varied and loyal customer base. We are a happy family-like business retaining some of our staff for decades. It’s a great place to work.”
Sally Marshall, Groceries Department Manager

“Many of us staff have been here for a long time so we know the shop, products, and customers well. We listen to feedback and are always looking for new and exciting things to stock.”
– Jo Stunt, Shop Floor Assistant

“A sense of community lies at the heart of Wild Oats. We’re able to combine a wealth of intelligent, informed knowledge with a real sense of belonging. Many of our old customers are like family, and our new customers are drawn to the welcoming, warm atmosphere. There’s a great deal of loyalty around the store, and an evergrowing pool of talent.”
Sally Marshall, Groceries Department Manager

Read more Business Development articles here...

Articles from our latest issue