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FROM THE TOP
Cheryl Thallons Ideas Factory
H-l.ng -~.l la..n~ ,r.p~r
.p.rea by
Written by retailers for retailers
issue 6 | spring 2013 $
www.betterretailingmagazine.co.uk
Revital founder Raj Vora
Entrepreneurial Issue
BETTER RETAILING MAGAZINE 27 26 BETTER RETAILING MAGAZINE
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
R
aj Vora opened his rst health food
store in Willesden in 1991. The next
year, with plenty of positive signs from
the rst store, the second was opened in
Victoria. Then, nothing except solid business
from the two Revital shops for a further eight
years.
That gap indicates a period of foundation-
REVITALISED!
Raj Vora, owner of Revitals 15 stores, his son Rahil and Chief of Operations Sanjay Patel
plan to double that number by the end of next year. Alistair Forrest probes for the secret
of Revitals success.
to articial substances such as antibiotics and
steroids as a way of healing and preventing
infection. That single thought process was to
provide people with a natural alternative to
use vitamins, minerals and herbs.
Over those formative years, Raj gained
experience by working in the health food
industry and as his dream of opening a store
grew in intensity, he was supported by Eamonn
Regan of Quest Vitamins with help from
companies like BioCare, Lamberts and Solgar.
CHANGING TIMES
Revital stores are not clones of the original
concept. Each has its own local autonomy
because although there are product ranges
that will always be popular nationwide,
people are different and towns and regions
have their individuality.
Sixty per cent of the products in each
Revital store will be the same, said Raj. The
remaining 40% of products is dependent on
location, availability and most importantly,
customer requirements.
Initially when Revital started, we as a
company were advising people what to take
and when, but now due to the internet being
so readily available, people are coming to us
and telling us exactly what they want and why,
almost as if the roles have been reversed.
It takes time to understand your
customers properly the most important item
of research for any health food store and
therefore if growth is on your agenda it must
be at a pace that allows experience to be
absorbed into the companys psyche.
As you can see from the list of stores
opened since 1991, for the rst eight years we
had only two stores, Willesden and Victoria,
continued Raj. Both of these stores succeeded
immediately and soon we required space for
storage and an ofce in the London area.
In 2000, an opportunity became
available in Ruislip and that is when the
laying while the Revital vision of was
developed and the team brought together.
Now, after 22 years including 15 openings
and zero closures, Revital is poised for further
dramatic expansion to double in size in two
years inspired by the Vora entrepreneurial
vision with the support of chief of operations
Sanjay Patel.
Rajs wife Nutan has shared this vision
from the outset and now his son Rahil is
masterminding the expansion to 30 stores.
It was a single thought process that pushed
me to open that rst store, said Raj, and the
principle is exactly the same today even if
consumer attitudes have changed. As a young
man in India I saw friends and family turning
business really began to grow. Since 2003
we have opened at least one shop per year
except in 2009 when the economic climate
dipped and the nation was in a recession.
Following 2009, reports showed that even
with a recession, Revital was not as affected
as much as was rst thought and plans
to expand continued with the opening of
another store on Kings Road, London.
It wasnt long before Revital began to
attract a wider interest and support came
from a number of health writers >p28
Revital is very careful in choosing an
area in which to open a store:
1. It must have a population that has
the degree of afuence necessary
to afford the nutrition offered.
Originally Willesden was 50-50
VMS/food but Revital overall is now
roughly 70-30 in favour of higher
value VMS. Willesden was the rst
but today we are more likely to target
towns like Guildford, Solihull and
Worcester, said Raj.
2. Revital does not want to go head to
head with any independent health
food shops. Raj notes: Of course
Guildford already had Food For
Thought, but this is predominantly
food whereas our emphasis is more
on VMS. We try to avoid competition
with independents because we
consider ourselves to be independent
and we are batting for the same team
with its rm principles.
3. If there is an existing independent,
it is possible they would consider
an offer. Willesden was an existing
store, said Raj, Stratford and
Beaconseld were Goldshield,
Cambridge was an old store, also
Solihull. We always pay a premium
price for the goodwill its the way
we run our company with contented
staff and contented people with
whom we do business.
Criteria for
expansion
Raj Vora (centre) with son Rahil and chief of operations Sanjay Patel
Since opening in Willesden, the Revital
policy for new stores is to look for an
afuent area in need of a health store,
or with a health store that will consider
selling. This is the Revital timeline:
Willesden 1991
Victoria 1992
Ruilsip 2000
Beaconseld 2003
Stratford 2003
Hounslow 2004
Cambridge 2005
Richmond 2005
Wigmore Street, London 2006*
Hampstead 2007
Solihull 2008
Kings Road, Chelsea 2010
Windsor 2011
Worcester 2012
Guildford November 2012
The Revital stores
Revital Windsor
Revital Worcester
Always be open to change for example, Revitals customer demographic has changed from
advice-seekers in 1991 to seekers of specic products in 2013.
* The Wigmore Street Revital store houses an education centre comprising two treatment rooms
and seminar suite for professional education including staff training, product seminars and
demonstrations and use by practitioners. This was the brainchild of Raj Voras daughter Astha.
28 BETTER RETAILING MAGAZINE
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
You can do it alone, but its better
with support from family, staff and
the industry
Your greatest asset is your staff
Always be open to change for
example, Revitals customer
demographic has changed from
advice-seekers in 1991 to seekers of
specic products in 2013
Keep your eye on the vision of
success. Has Revital ever had to
close a store? Raj Vora: No!
SUMMARY
and complementary specialists, attention
that would soon lead Raj and his family to
look beyond London to towns, cities and
communities where the natural health gospel
was catching on fast.
I asked Raj to list the changes within
Revital since 1991. Firstly, our customer
service has improved and continues to
improve, he said. Because we are a small
chain, we are in a better position to always get
the product the customer asks for. We never
say no. We get it for them either from another
branch (there are regular deliveries between
branches) or posted to them free of charge.
This builds customer loyalty.
Our commitment to staff knowledge
remains the same but that knowledge is
always developing. Our staff are our major
asset, and we are very proud of them we
now have 120 staff; most have remained with
us over the years while those joining tend
to stay with us. We have regular managers
meetings and training programmes.
INTERNET GROWTH
Like most successful retail companies, Revital
has embraced the opportunities offered in an
online age.
With the internet becoming increasingly
popular over the years we launched our
website in 2006, said Raj. It was a natural
progression from our mail order catalogue
business. This proved vital for our business.
It still gives us great exposure and allows
us to sell in areas and markets that were
previously unavailable to us.
In addition, contributions on the website
from health experts and practitioners give
a good backing to our products. They give
customers relevant information and we add
various additional features to provide extra
interest rather than just focusing on sales. A
look at the revital.co.uk home page in February
showed several of these including special
offers, Dale Pinnocks recipe ideas, in store
events and the extremely useful Healthnotes
bolt-on service.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
There are obvious advantages to having a
group of stores, not least being able to buy
product as a group. All orders are carried out
centrally by the purchasing team and is kept
under control through the EPOS system. With
the click of a few buttons we can see what
products are selling well in different areas,
said Raj.
Also, the groups marketing is handled by
the head ofce in Ruislip, although each store
also has local requirements.
But the key to all our success is the unity
within the team, said Raj. I am proud to say
that the majority of my senior management
team has been with me for over 20 years.
Funnily enough, the majority of the industry
knows and recognises my chief of operations,
Sanjay Patel, more than me! The hard work,
dedication and vision of this team have
put Revital in its current position. With this
in mind my greatest satisfaction is seeing
all that hard work and planning producing
successful results.
And are there any disappopintments?
Every organisation is expected to have good
days and bad days. However my biggest
disappointment is the lack of support from the
Government and the banks.
Rahil Vora joined the Revital team in 2011.
With his background in nance, my son has
been able to help speed up our growth plans,
concluded Raj. By the end of 2014 we aim
to have 30 stores and hope to increase the
already expanding Internet business.
And you never know, with his background
in banking, Rahil might be able to restore my
faith in the banks!
Our staff are our major asset, and we are very proud of them we now have 120 staff; most have
remained with us over the years while those joining tend to stay with us.
The keys to successful expansion include negotiating a good lease.
Landords are not reducing rents because there is demand, said
Raj, and they are about to say take it or leave it. If you can nd
someone ready to negotiate in the right area it is a good time to
open. That is the biggest hurdle, and it is tough, he said. Have
the vision and stick to your principles.
Not surprisingly, Raj lists the banks as the main obstacle.
They dont like the retail trade and I dont blame them, he said.
When we talk to them, they would rather look at retail in general
rather than at our track record, at the history of retailing rather
than our particular success story, and I do blame them for that.
We are thriving, but the banks tend to be blinkered. This means
you often have to build the business with your own money, or an
alternative source, or rely on cash ow which is very difcult.
Obstacles and
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