I really appreciate the prompt response from LifeSource staff after I sent them a link to the blog post I wrote yesterday, "I love LifeSource but recent changes are disappointing."
Matt Trickey, the bulk department manager, emailed me this morning with some insights into the challenges that LifeSource Natural Foods faces -- along with most other locally owned stores in Salem.
I feel considerably more sympathetic to LifeSource now.
It isn't that what Matt said is totally new news to me. I just hadn't fully understood how difficult it is for LifeSource to compete against grocery stores that are jumping onto the organic/natural foods bandwagon, yet have hugely more financial resources and buying power than LifeSource.
Anyway, here's what Matt sent to me, after getting his permission to share the message publicly.
Brian, thank you for the link to your blog post. I'll give it a read and bring it up with my managers so we can discuss it together.
We value your perspective, and we do agree that we have made some changes to our store in response to consumer trends in the natural foods industry. We are indeed trying to stay viable and relevant in a rapidly changing landscape.
In a sense, we have been very successful in our promotion of organic and non-GMO foods. With that rapid growth, we have seen these categories become adopted by mainstream retailers and online retailers alike. However, competition in mainstream retail strongly favors large businesses with financial leverage we will never possess.
Online retail behemoths have drastically rewritten the retail narrative to the point where long established brick and mortar stores are metaphorically crumbling in economic despair.
We once occupied a niche in Salem that allowed us to grow and flourish, but this niche has become so attractive to larger investment interests, that entire chains of natural food stores have cannibalized each other to the point of assimilation into the single predominant online retailer.
(Whole Foods ate Wild Oats, and now Amazon has eaten Whole Foods.)
As you can probably imagine, this presents a formidable challenge to LifeSources' viability as a small retail business.
Long past where most business owners would have sold a flourishing business to investors, Alex has remained true to his values, to the people of Salem, and to the people who run this business on a daily basis.
For example, Marie and I have certainly enjoyed the very special privilege of growing our family in the relative economic stability of this business. We have always been aware, though, that it is a precarious and tentative market niche, and we have been very conservative with our finances as a necessity of prudence.
During my tenure at LifeSource, I have seen the many struggles and changes to the business as our niche market has been overtaken by much larger economic forces, and I am very aware of the challenges facing all independent natural foods retailers.
At no other time has the market viability for small retailers been this precarious, yet we continue to seek new opportunities to serve Salem, and stay relevant to those who share our values. LifeSource was envisioned and established as a model of sustainability, and we are at a crucial point where we can only hope the community will still find value in our vision as we persevere in this endeavor.
Thank you for your continued belief in a brighter future for LifeSource. We will certainly give serious consideration of your perspective as we do our best to continue to serve the community.
Bulk Department Manager
on behalf of everyone at
LifeSource Natural Foods
Well said, Matt Trickey. We will continue to support Life Source.
Posted by: Norm Baxter | January 22, 2019 at 08:35 PM
Thanks for sharing! We love Matt and LifeSource! They will continue to get our business!
Posted by: Warren Binford | January 22, 2019 at 09:33 PM
While I do appreciate the pressure and impact competition has on small local business I have a question. I lived in Eugene 19 years. I still have ties there. There exists a large variety of multiple local natural food stores both older and a few new to shop in amongst the bigger retailers for organic non GMO food.. I can think of 10 long term local groceries plus a huge farmers market off the top of my head. Eugene population is not much larger than Salem. I’ve been here 13 years and still only LifeSource and Natural Grocers both on Commercial Street. I’m really confused about this radical differences in variety of natural food sources in a similar sized town???
Posted by: Laura | January 23, 2019 at 08:13 AM