Building on a humble beginning
Founded by Richard Downey in 1979, "the original store, which is still open on Ringling Boulevard in Sarasota, had no credit cards, no
telephones and very little or no refrigeration," John recalls, when he and his former partners purchased the Richard's chain in 1997 after Downey died. "I mean it was really bare bones -- but that's the way Richard liked it, and it was successful. So I saw a lot of opportunity." At the time, there were six Richard's Whole Foods in the local chain and as Rorer and his partners remodeled and modernized the stores, the company's gross sales doubled within two years. By 2004 the company had grown to 11 stores and over 70 employees, but John was looking further ahead.
Shaping the vision for growth
As we talked, John, who had recently bought out his partners, couldn't help but feel nostalgic for Downey's simple, almost rustic retail style. "I had a vision in my head," Rorer said. "The look I was going for better signified the history of Richard's. When we bought the chain they were using a lot of retro, turn-of-the-century clip art in their marketing." I agreed with his instincts, that the Victorian illustration style could be used as a starting point for a brand that stands for old fashioned values and invites customers to "return to what feels like a simpler, friendlier time in our history, where customer care and trust is of utmost importance." Putting a face on Richard's good name.
John felt strongly that Richard's should have a face to go with the name - to make it personal - something that had been missing since the passing of the original owner. And, he had just the man to fill the role of proprietor (the same title John uses on his business card). With his mutton chops beard, high white collar, an apron and rolled up sleeves, he had an honest, hard working, friendly look. I cropped him at the elbows and put him in a formal cameo style vignette - which looks iconic, like a Lincoln penny - and then placed a large "Richard's" across his chest in a woodcut font. John called his character Shop Keep
, but from then on he became Richard
. Boldly creating
one-of-a-kind products, each one
a brand of their own.
Now that Richard's had a brand concept, John wanted to create an assortment of products to carry the Richard's banner. And, he was looking for more than just putting the Richard's name on lower-priced generic versions of national brand products. He liked what Trader Joe's was doing - creating a one-of-a-kind experience by finding unique products and branding them with their slightly whimsical and offbeat concepts. So John researched some local and handmade products, then had me create a brand for each one - adding new and original themes to build the Richard's story. The Flying Richard's Brand
(above) first appeared across the back of staff (Flight Crew
) t-shirts and then found a home on the Mouthwatering Munchies
line of snacks.
By design, the first brand that was rolled out was Richard's Wellcare Formulas
- a complete line of natural supplements, produced with the finest ingredients available. The blue ribbon, common to many of the Richard's brands, evokes the superior quality of the product inside. It was first to the shelf because the high volume, high sticker price and profit margin on several dozen SKUs of supplements would help fund the development of the more creative concepts of the niche brand products that would follow.
The best combination: Proprietary and Local
People love to buy homegrown products right from the source, and with your brand on the label it will ensure they will return for more and tell their friends. That's loyalty.
Locally harvested and unfiltered, each variety of Richard's Pure Florida Honey is as unique as the flowering plants the bees visit. Every flavor has its own customized logo bearing the blossoms that give it its distinctive flavor, and a story from the region where it is collected. And, as you can see, bears love them!
Richard's Handmade Vegetable Oil Soaps are cold-processed in small batches by hand in a local shop. Stone ground pigments and natural botanicals are added, then each variety is given a creative name and an enticing description to romance the senses. The hand cut bars are unwrapped, except for a band of corrugated cardboard that holds the label, allowing the exotic fragrances to entice you to smell each one.
The mark of locally hand roasted coffees, mostly fair trade and organically grown, Richard's World Traveler Coffees were given a look that is classical and refined. The back of each flavor carries pictures and stories from the people and the regions around the world where the coffee was grown, to give authenticity to the brand and justify its premium price.
A Proprietary Formula for Success
John continued to seize every opportunity to use the Richard's banner - which can be found on many more products, delivery trucks, reusable shopping bags, cook books, coffee mugs and more - with each one given its own unique point-of-view that adds to the Richard's lore.
When a new location became available, John saw it as an opportunity to develop his vision further, remodeling the entire interior in a unique style that "married the modern with the ambience of a country market." The look got rave reviews from customers and became the prototype for the Richard's chain, using a bold, dark red on the walls and incorporating a lot of turn-of-the-century accents, like black and white period photographs, and wood floors and counters to add warmth.
In 2009, Richard's Whole Foods became Richard's Foodporium
™ - and also the first natural & specialty foods retail franchiser in the nation. Within a month, 3 new franchise stores will be open in neighborhoods across Florida. This growth can largely be attributed to John's strong business sense, vision and dedication to the Richard's concept of convenient neighborhood stores providing affordable natural and specialty foods in a uniquely nostalgic and intimate shopping experience.
The Top 6 Reasons to have your own Proprietary brands:
72% of purchasing decisions are made in the store#5)
84% of U.S. shoppers bought store brands in the past year#4)
One in five items sold in U.S. stores is now store branded #3)
Sales of store-brand goods grew 8.6% during the past two years,
vs. 1.5% for national brands. #2)
Store branded products average 10% higher margins than
Store brands are your competitive differentiators, decreasing dependence on national brands. And, while national brands boost categories, store brands support loyalty to your store, increasing customer profitability. Sources: A.C. Nielson, Consumer Reports, CNNmoney.com Brand Killers: Store brands aren't for losers anymore.Building your own Proprietary Brand What to Take Home: Find your story and live it.
What makes you different? What do you do best? What do you have that no one else does? Be that.Know where you're headed.
Have a clear vision of what your brand should be, who you are trying to reach and what they want. Brand it.
Hire a professional who can capture your story and create a brand that is strong enough to support your vision.Make it your own.
Dare to have a unique point-of-view. Claim original and fight to keep it. Make it personal, create an emotional connection and bond with your customers. Go "all in."
Make it worth it. No one wants 'generic' anymore. Give it a personality and add something special that will bring them back.Stay true and stay the course.
Stay focused on your message, speak it with a consistent voice, offer something of value that is yours, and you'll build a loyal following of believers.