The Vitamin Shopper and WW, formerly Weight Watchers, have partnered together to meet consumers’ wellness needs.

The Vitamin Shoppe chief executive officer Sharon Leite and WW CEO Mindy Grossman sat down with Footwear News editorial director and Fairchild Media Group chief brand officer Michael Atmore at the Footwear News and Beauty Inc. Wellness Forum to discuss the impacts of COVID-19, their brand partnership, the future of the wellness industry and the importance of community. 

When consumers increased their focus on health due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Vitamin Shoppe and WW both shifted their business models in order to reach people at home, Leite and Grossman said. In January, the two inked a partnership meant to emphasize a well-rounded approach to health and wellness. 

The two companies partnered to bring consumers co-branded supplements, as well as the opportunity to purchase select WW products and memberships in Vitamin Shoppe stores. For Grossman, the partnership made perfect sense, especially after the pandemic shifted consumer’s outlook on wellness. By partnering, the two are able to offer more health and wellness resources through their studios and stores. Grossman noted from the first meeting, Leite shared her same goal: “to democratize wellness and really have an impact on people’s lives sustainably.”

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“When you think of partnerships today, it is not a transactional relationship,” Leite said. “It is a commitment to what you both want to do for your business, for your employees, for your consumers and today, more importantly, for the world.” 

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Through the WW and The Vitamin Shoppe partnership, the organizations are aiming to be a trusted information source for consumers during an age where misinformation has spread rapidly online, both about the COVID-19 pandemic and other aspects of health and wellness, they said. For The Vitamin Shoppe and WW, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has been an essential part of their business, as consumers were looking for resources to take care of themselves and their families. 

When the pandemic started, people quickly shifted their habits looking to take on a healthier lifestyle. In order to meet their needs, both WW and The Vitamin Shoppe had to adjust their business models quickly. When consumers couldn’t visit a Vitamin Shoppe store or a WW studio, community became more important than ever. 

WW shifted 30,000 of their weekly workshops to be online in just six days. For Grossman, making these major changes and adapting to the consumer’s needs in a matter of days was a no brainer. “The reason why we were able to do that is there was one focus and that focus was, we were not leaving our members without community and what they needed at a time when they needed us more than ever,” she said. 

In order to foster community, both WW and The Vitamin Shoppe have emphasized their commitment to diversity and inclusion over the last year. Most notably, the two brands partnered as founding members of the Healthy Living Coalition, which works to provide food access and close nutrition gaps in underserved communities. The HLC, led by business leaders and nonprofits, has set goals for their first year to provide educational content around nutrition, as well as provide brand and financial resources.

“This is sustainable, ongoing change and commitment of what we need to do to truly create a much more democratic world,” Grossman said. “That goes to our hiring practices, that goes to how we diversify our member base, that goes to the impact we want to have on communities. It is more important today than ever as leaders societally to be able to have that impact.”

Leite said The Vitamin’s Shoppe commitment to creating a sustainable approach to health and wellness is always at the forefront of the business. With her team, Leite makes decisions with the long-term impact on all communities in mind, she said.

“For us, we talk a lot about ‘lifelong wellness starts here,’ and true lifelong wellness is all about making sure that it’s accessible,” Leite said. 

Although WW studios and The Vitamin Shoppe stores are reopening, Grossman explained she doesn’t think things we’ll go back to the way they were before the pandemic.

“The future is going to be this combination of virtual and physical. People embrace that,” Grossman said. “If I think about our workshop business, we were bound by geography. We’re not today.” Consumers are seeking flexibility and in terms of wellness, they are looking for something that fits their lifestyle, on their terms, she continued. 

For Leite and The Vitamin Shoppe, it’s all about meeting the customer where they are. During the pandemic, they developed a delivery model in a matter of weeks that allows the customer to order and receive their product in two hours. Now, it’s about the balance of both: offering the consumer an in-store retail experience and an engaging virtual option, while always maintaining a strong sense of community.  

“While quality, innovation and expertise are always exceptionally important in terms of everything that we do, there’s nothing like the human heart,” Leite said. “With everything that everyone’s been through, knowing that people are authentic and genuine and care, that’s an element I hope always continues to stay with us.…It is absolutely a big part in helping you with your health.” 

The Vitamin Shoppe and WW are continuing to look toward the future in order to further evolve the wellness landscape. Leite believes the consumer’s commitment to wellness will only continue, as they now have a deeper understanding of how their health drives every aspect of their life. She said she expects to see a more well-rounded approach to wellness continue to evolve, as consumers focus on nutrition and exercise, along with sleep and stress management.

While both companies expect the biggest challenge to be the continued level of uncertainty, their ability to be flexible and their commitment to community is what has brought them closer to their consumer. 

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