Interviewed by RDBA Contributing Editor Amanda Rubizhevsky, MPH, NC
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
I began working at ShopRite of Medford three years ago as the Health & Nutrition Coordinator. My store owners were enthusiastic to have a dietitian with a background in communications and dietetics and a passion for nutrition education. Though I had minimal experience in the retail setting, I was ready and eager to learn.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
The biggest challenge was learning the “in’s and out’s” of the grocery business. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the industry is complex and, often, unpredictable! Therefore, it’s important to remain flexible and adaptable in a readily-changing environment. Tip: the best way to execute programming is to work closely with department managers and have a solid understanding of grocery operations- from ordering to monitoring sales.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
Retail dietitians will often find themselves juggling multiple projects at the same time. Being a perfectionist by nature, I found myself struggling with prioritization and time-management. Over time, I learned to focus more of my energy on projects that had the greatest customer impact or ROI. Skim down on time spent planning demos and lectures when possible. Think: less is more. Remember to deliver short, relevant messaging; supermarket customers are often more receptive to information provided in “sound bites.”
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
When I first started in this position, there were times when department managers were resistant to my ideas and suggestions. Much of this had to do with a lack of trust and understanding. Together, we had to learn how we could work together to best serve our customer and boost sales. Part of working as a team involves speaking the same language and aligning your goals. For example, department managers are constantly looking at unit movement and gross profit (GP). The retail dietitian should have a good understanding of how these measures are impacted and aim to increase movement and GP with his or her recommendations. When you can show department managers that you get it, you’ll have earned their trust.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
First and foremost, knowing that I have the ability to make a difference is truly what keeps me going. After all, what better setting to have an impact on food choices than the supermarket?
Also, persistence coupled with the support I have by management and store owners have truly helped my growth and success. I do my best to overcome obstacles with patience and a desire to problem-solve as a team. If you’re fortunate to have a team that is willing to think outside the box, the sky’s the limit.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I ask tons of questions and seek various training opportunities as often as possible.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Twice a year, my team of dietitians and I put together store-wide festivals highlighting new items that coincide with a particular health and wellness theme, such as National Nutrition Month or Celiac Awareness Month. Each festival typically includes 30-40 in-store demos, which are done by brand ambassadors, dietetic interns and our most outgoing ShopRite staff. Planning for a festival of this size usually requires at least six months, but the hard work certainly pays off! Customers leave with a greater awareness of what items we carry and our store sees a significant jump in sales. To me, this mutual benefit is what being a retail dietitian is all about!