E-commerce Retailer Business Plan

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Market Analysis Summary

The market for vitamins and nutritional supplements has grown to over $6.5 billion annually. Herbal sales alone are growing by 20% per year.  This market is lead by the aging Baby Boomer who is concerned with his/her mortality.  Also, there has been a paradigm shift of perception of nutritional supplements.  Homeopathic and naturopathic products are seen as normal.  In addition, positive medical results from major studies have further legitimized these products.

4.1 Market Segmentation

A significant trend in America, and abroad, is that people are taking a more proactive interest in their health.  This is exemplified by the increase of health clubs and health club memberships.  People are looking to avoid invasive surgery and powerful pharmaceuticals. People are taking an active role in the maintenance of their health and practicing preventive medicine.  Naturopathic medicine promotes the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of human disorders through the use of non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical products and practices.  In 1993, the United Stated government recognized this trend when it established the Office of Alternative Medicine.

Besides the general development of naturopathic medicine, the aging of the American population is a significant trend driving the use of naturopathic and homeopathic health supplements.  The Baby Boomers are now reaching middle age and mortality is becoming a focus.  This demographic segment, which is comprised of 80 million people, represents over 50% of our county's discretionary income.  It is reasonable to believe that this wealthy market segment will continue to grow the sales of naturopathic products.

Another global trend is the emergence and popularity of e-commerce.  Brand-focused Web retailers that can provide quality products, customer service, information, and the intangible, emotional buy-in by the customer are becoming hugely successful.  E-commerce retailers have an advantage in that "Unlike traditional retailers, Web-based sellers are not slowed by the friction of store growth and local marketing"  (J.W. Gurley, Fortune, 1/11/98).  In addition, e-commerce companies do not have the excessive overhead of a traditional brick and mortar retailer.  As seen by the recent success of Amazon.com and Gap.com, consumers are comfortable buying online and will pay for convenience.  Experts predict Web sales to grow to $12 billion by 2003.

This enthusiasm about the Internet is not irrational but grounded in reality in light of the recent market crash of Internet retailers.  The recent Internet crash was based on too-easy access to capital invested into retailers and other dot-coms without reasonable business plans or revenue models.  Regardless of the recent fallout, the Internet is a very efficient marketing and distribution model that if done right, significantly decreases costs of serving the consumer. Nature's Candy will harness these efficiencies and will grow intelligently unlike other .dot-coms that became dot-bombs.

Market Analysis
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5
Potential Customers Growth CAGR
Baby Boomers 9% 64,785 70,616 76,971 83,898 91,449 9.00%
Other 8% 40,000 43,200 46,656 50,388 54,419 8.00%
Total 8.62% 104,785 113,816 123,627 134,286 145,868 8.62%

4.2 Industry Analysis

The nutritional supplement market is a semi-mature market characterized by high-growth rates, medium barriers to entry, and a few large competitors.  Despite the competition in the market, many companies have reported annual growth levels of 30%.  The market leaders are as follows:

  • GNC (General Nutritional Companies, Inc.): This company is a nationwide specialty retailer of vitamins, minerals, and sports nutrition supplements.  With over 3,000 stores, GNC generated $1.19 billion in 2000.
  • Nature's Sunshine Products, Inc.: Nature's manufactures and markets a variety of health supplements.  This multi-level marketing company had 2000 revenues of approximately $370 million.
  • Rexall Sundown, Inc.: Rexall develops, manufactures, markets and sells vitamins, nutritional supplements, and consumer health products through retailers, independent distributors, and mail order.  Rexall had 2000 revenues of approximately $370 million.
  • International Vitamin Company, Inc.: IVC manufactures, packages, sells, and distributes private label vitamins and nutritional supplements to drug stores, supermarkets and health food stores.  IVC had revenues of $107 million in 2000.

The primary channels of distribution in this market are:

  • Mass market retailers (Fred Meyer, Rite Aide).
  • Direct Sales organizations.
  • Health Food Stores (GNC).
  • Mail order catalogs and the Internet.

4.2.1 Competition and Buying Patterns

Within the mass market retailer channel, the three main primary vitamin and supplement product categories are national brands, broad-line brands, and private label brands.  The national and broad line brands consist of 60% of the domestic market, which the private label brands account for the remaining 40% of the market.

National Brands
Examples:  Centrum, One-A-Day.
Generally do not provide a full line of vitamins or other supplements.
The product formulas are conservative and generic in nature.

Broad-line Brands
Examples:  Rexall Sundown, GNC's Nature's Fingerprint, Country Life.
Full lines of produce under one brand.
Manufactured by company.
This is the market segment where most of the product development and innovation occurs.
Stronger potencies and cutting edge ingredients.
Highest price.

Private Label Products
Examples:  NatureMed.
Under retailer's name.
Smaller line of products than broad-line brands.
Manufactured by a third party.
More conservative potencies than broad line.
Tend to be the cheapest.