By Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
I’m always excited when I see retailers adding health and wellness and RD programs. It showcases the commitment to helping shoppers live healthier lives in point-of-purchase environments. As these programs launch, however, there are bound to be growing pains. Retailers don’t often know what healthy living programs look like and RDs aren’t initially hired into the retailer at executive levels. Growing pains.
Lately, it feels like a common question amongst retail RDs and related to these growing pains is who owns the development of the retailer’s health and wellness strategy. It’s a black cloud in the industry, a nebulous zone that no one is sure who owns.
My advice to retail RDs in this situation is to step up to the plate, grab the bull by the horns, and jump in with both feet. Instead of waiting for someone to tell you what the strategy is, define it.
Here’s why. As retailers establish retail RD programs, they have limited knowledge of the full talents and capabilities of the nutrition professionals hired. They understand retail but lack an understanding of the full breadth of how healthy living programs and services can positively impact their business. Once dietitians understand retail, however, they have a strong sense of the full potential. They understand the best alignment within the company, where health and wellness programs can add value, and how to partner internally and who to partner with externally.
Instead of waiting for someone to ask your opinion, put your thoughts, ideas and strategies on paper and sell them in. Start with colleagues you have already built as supporters. Circulate your strategy to heads of key departments, refining it based on their feedback. Then start moving it up the chain.
Corporate culture and politics must, of course, be factored into your approach. But even if half your ideas are accepted, you’ve won. You’ve established a modicum of control over your program’s future. You’ve showcased your understand of retail and your company’s business. It’s likely, too, that you will have gained the respect of company leaders, and in the future, they’ll more often seek you out for leadership roles.