Americans are on a quest to feel good and get healthier, and almost every kind of retailer can jump on the wellness wagon, according to WSL Strategic Retail, which has been studying the trend over the past decade. That trend, WSL predicts, could lead to farmers’ markets in malls, more yoga studios in suburban shopper centers, and other changes that will effect the retail industry.
“The shoppers in the world will embrace just about everything that talks about wellness,” said Candace Corlett, president of WSL, in a speech to the Retail Marketing Society in New York City last week. “There seem to be no boundaries in terms of who can be under the wellness tent.”
The Retail Marketing Society, composed primarily of retail, fashion and finance professionals who work in New York, invited Corlett to present the findings in WSL’s study, “The Wellness Uprising,” for which it surveyed 2,000 consumers in July 2014.
The survey found that while 53 percent feel that buying healthy products is more expensive, 46 percent said the added expense is worth paying.
Other researchers are reporting similar findings, as the wellness trend grows. The NPD Group, a research firm, said in its Eating Patterns in America report in January that consumers are seeking more natural foods. NPD also reported last month that one out of every 10 American adults owns a fitness tracker — a digital device that monitors how many steps they take or stairs they climb.
The definition of “what health care is and what staying well is all about” has become so broad that it presents threats for traditional health retailers, such as drugstores, as well as opportunities for retailers not previously identified as being in the health industry, Corlett said.
“The new treatments and new choices are posing terrific threats to companies who rely on the health care aisle — the drugstores, and Walmarts and Targets — because people are finding alternatives that are outside of the aisle,” Corlett said.
Some of those alternatives are massages, yoga and alternative medicine, including folk remedies.
Retailers who sell products such as fitness trackers, which monitor activity or wellness, or businesses that promise to relieve stress, can be winners in the “wellness uprising,” according to WSL. “Everyone from hotels to hospitals are looking for the wellness opportunity,” Corlett said, noting that hotel chains have started supplying guests with sneakers and workout clothes as an amenity, and hospitals have added gyms and fitness centers.
The CVS drugstore chain recently rebranded itself with a corporate name change to CVS Health, in order to remind customers that it is in the health business, even though its stores prominently display candy, snack foods and soda.
A HEALTHY TREND
FITNESS FOOD IS WORTH THE EXTRA COST
53 percent of consumers said buying healthy foods and products is more expensive, but 46 percent said it is worth it.
TOP OBSTACLES TO HEALTH THAT AMERICANS WANT TO GET RID OF:
Too much stress — 47 percent
Lack of sleep — 37 percent
Being overweight — 36 percent
No time to exercise — 25 percent
Three categories cited as among the most important factors
—Feeling mentally balanced
—Able to move easily