In this episode:

Wendy Liebmann, WSL’s CEO & Chief Shopper, interviews Elizabeth Gretkowski, senior consultant at WSL, about The Big Business of WELL. They discuss how shoppers are responding in this time of heightened anxiety, their underlying mindset, share insights from WSL’s How America Shops® research, and define the long-term implications for retailers and manufacturers. They tell you how to reframe your thinking and your business culture.

What’s the Future Shop Podcast with WSL all about?

Our podcast focuses on how shoppers are transforming retail and what you need to do about it.

Retail strategist and shopping futurist Wendy Liebmann shares her passionate, unvarnished shopper-centric view of where retail is headed. She interviews experts in retail, marketing, insights, design, education, and more. And she and the WSL team regularly share excerpts from WSL’s latest proprietary shopper research about what’s coming next.

The Future Shop Podcast is a no-holes barred view of what shoppers want, what you need to deliver, who’s getting it right, and who’s getting it wrong. And why. In this fast and furious view you will begin to understand how to anticipate the future that’s emerging right under your nose.

WSL Strategic Retail is a leader in shopper insights and retail strategy. It helps clients around the world anticipate change in order to grow in the near and longer term. It is recognized for its ground-breaking How America Shops® and How the World Shops research.

Don’t miss upcoming episodes, stay up-to-date by visiting the WSL Shopper Insights Library, or our Podcast page.

Hello, I’m Wendy Liebman. I’m the CEO of WSL strategic retail and this is Future Shop. Today we’re going to talk about the biggest consumer spending opportunity in decades. Did that get your attention? I’m here with my colleague Elizabeth Gretkowski and we are going to talk about what we call the big business of well. This is a whole massive trend that we have been watching for at least half a dozen years that really focuses on this shift from taking care of my sickness and my health to really building a life about being well and creating a greater sense of well-being. You know it seems even more appropriate than ever that we’re now sitting in this time of the coronavirus and this heightens the urgency for us to understand this opportunity. It’s not just related to pandemics and panic, it’s related to a whole new consumer and shopper movement. This is an opportunity for you, whatever industry you’re in. So you know, Liz, we’ve been watching this for a long time. 

Right we have been, I believe back in 2014 we did our first qualitative study where we brought different people among different ages and ethnicities to hear how they view their wellness and I know that I was surprised to hear them talk about their willingness to try alternative therapies, their willingness to stand in the aisle and read the package to find out the ingredients and we really did see a big shift in the way that people view their wellness.

It’s interesting because I think at one point, people were thinking oh, well being and yoga, acupuncture. All of these kinds of things were all kind of the big cities or coastal and what we saw in all of that work is that it was lower income households, it was diverse households of ages and incomes around the country that were really becoming passionate about becoming passionate about their own health. They were moving from what we call “sick care” to what we call “well care” in very fast terms and I think that’s the imperative that we want to emphasize to everybody today. Because this is a movement that has been moving very fast, it’s also driven by this overwhelming desire to rid the stress out of our lives. That’s a health factor, not “oh gee I have too much on my plate”. The number one barrier to living a healthy life is in fact taking the stress out of your life. Especially for the younger populations as we saw, right?

Absolutely, Gen Z are more stress than anybody. I think 60% of them say stress is the number one obstacle. So, the good news is that we’ve seen retailers respond to this and really try to think of services initiatives in their store to make shopping simpler and faster and quicker and less stressful for their shoppers.

I think another thing that we’re seeing is that we have moved from the sick care days of OTC aisle in the pharmacy to everything from a apparel that is comfortable, cotton that is organic to having pets in the house because it makes us feel like we’re less stressed because we’ve got some furry animal there as long as it doesn’t give you allergies.

We’ve seen it move into technology and all the apps that people are now using from their wrist to their phone we’ve seen travel and entertainment that’s all driven around this initiative of being well and that’s why the opportunity is so significant. One of the things that we will have to think about in this is as Liz just said the retailers are moving very fast in this. We brought a group together last December. We heard from people like CVS health and Walgreens and Walmart and Target, Nordstrom, Zappos talk about all their initiatives around health and wellness they are moving fast. Right, Liz?

They are moving very fast and it’s it’s pretty amazing how bold are being I have to say hearing Norm de Greve stand onstage from CVS and talk about everything they’re doing from the health Hub that they’re rolling out across the country, the clean, free from beauty that they’re introducing, the healthy snacks that they’re introducing and even the unaltered photos and imagery that they’re using in their stores to send a message of mental health and empowerment and confidence to women. So, it really is great to see the retailer’s move so fast and so bold and with their Wellness initiatives.

Even the big boxes, Walmart health clinics that they are opening in the regions of the country that we wouldn’t have thought about Dallas Georgia and Calhoun Georgia. Kroger and Walgreens coming together to create easier to shop environments with healthy food, and they’re the big boxes.  And then you step back and think but what about the smaller retailers and brands that are emerging? 

Yes, exactly and we see a lot of specialty retailers popping up that are so focused on Wellness. In fact, if you go down Broadway Street in the city you can see that the whole block is entirely different. We’ve seen national brands disappear and these little niche retailers pop up that are offering Innovative services. You can have walk-in acupuncture, walk-in teeth whitening, IV vitamin therapy, sauna red light therapy, the list goes on and on of all of the Innovative services and Innovative products that shoppers can buy now. 

And I think you don’t we think again that’s very fringe around the country now in diverse markets we are seeing the big box of change and the big chains change as well as some of these small, innovative retailers, technology-driven retailers and brands that are emerging across lots of categories. So, here’s the thing there are only so many opportunities like this in a decade so don’t miss them.

And don’t keep your eyes off of Gen Z because Gen Z has this mindset and they are more focused on their well-being and it’ll only continue to get more ramped up.

Now that we live in a time of coronavirus and other events that will emerge like this over time, this is just going to amplify the situation. So, not to end on a negative note, but, recognize this is the opportunity. One of the biggest business opportunities in decades. The business of being well. So, here’s the thing, the thing is this, that in order for you to capture this opportunity you need to think very differently. When I say this opportunity our view is this is an opportunity even bigger than the tech revolution and the iPhone revolution. That changed how people spend their money a decade or two ago. This impacts every age, every income level, ethnicity diversity, rural, suburban, urban, this is a mission that American shoppers are on and you need to be part of it.

And I think the other thing is that this is not a trend that’s going to go away. This is a fundamental shift in the way that shoppers live and shop. So, it’s going to be here for a long time and retailers and brands need to think long-term about their growth strategy. How are they going to prepare for this new shopper and this new retail world?

And I do think it is part of that if you don’t think it’s important to think about what’s just happened in the last couple of months with the coronavirus, the elephant in the room, right? So, if anything’s heightened the shoppers need to take some control in a time of chaos, this is it. 

We’re not trying to be prophets of doom and gloom, we’re saying, this is a reality that we’ve been talking about for five or six years. this desire for shoppers to be well and take control of their health. So, what do you need to do about this? So, first of all, you need to be able to see it, right, Liz? So, you need to be able to see for yourselves what’s going on there and don’t assume this is a fringe movement. All you need to do is go to your key retailers and walk through the doors, walk down the street, Liz will take you on one of our retail safaris so you can see all the emerging retail. You need to understand this is with us today.

 And you also need to see it from the shoppers perspective. So, you have to be a shopper centric because shoppers point us to the future.

We also need to consider the cultural change. We’re trying to help our customers envision the future. What does this look like? We recognize and what you need to recognize as companies, this isn’t just an external facing proposition. This is how do you internally immerse the organization in this new kind of thinking. So, it is everything from the product people, the R&D people, from the legal people this is about a culture change that is around health and well being. Healthy companies, companies with purpose inspire their employees to think differently and to drive growth differently. This is about the big business of well. you need to think about is that this is happening really fast so you need to immerse yourself in this very quickly not just about the current issues that we’re dealing with but in fact as Liz says, this is longitudinal. This has been emerging for the last five or six years. We’ve seen it grounded in this across the country and so the need to jump on this now is urgent. 

And I’ll say the last piece of this, don’t just think because I’m in the beauty business it doesn’t really matter to me. Or, you know, I’m in the fashion business, it doesn’t really matter to me. It only really matters to people who are in the healthcare business. 

That’s not the way the shopper sees it, so, if you’re shopper centric, you will see the future. We are happy to help you do it. So, if you want more information on the Big Business of Well, you want to take a retail Safari, if you want to see more from us and in our trend alert go to our website, and you too will see the future. So, be calm, wash your hands and eat plenty of chocolate, it’s great for stress. 

Just a reminder for the contents of this podcast WSL strategic retail copyright WSL 2020 thanks for listening really enjoyed the chat please join us next time see you around.

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