business

This online store is a mashup of Amazon meets Whole Foods

Michael Hinkelman, Daily News columnist

Updated: Monday, January 25, 2016, 12:16 AM

Sam Wolf runs Lucky Vitamin, a Conshohocken-based company offering healthy foods and supplements.

SAM WOLF, 34, of Villanova, is founder and "chief wellness spreader" of LuckyVitamin in Conshohocken. The third-generation family business started as a pharmacy, then became a health-foods store and now is a leading online retailer offering almost 37,000 products. The company has 200 employees and nearly $100 million in annual revenues.

Q: How did LuckyVitamin start?

A: My grandfather and father had a pharmacy in Eagleville that opened in 1956 and eventually changed into a health-foods store in 1996. My father and mother wanted to live a healthier lifestyle. Then, in 2004, as e-commerce gained traction, my father and I decided to start an online business. We had a handshake agreement and I built a website. We already had a dynamic brick-and-mortar business with more than 10,000 products, so with LuckyVitamin we expanded and the website went live in 2005.

Q: The biz model?

A: We're an online retailer with a 75,000-square-foot warehouse in Leetsdale, Pa. (near Pittsburgh), where everything is shipped. We have about 120 employees there, and it's a 24/7 operation. An order gets placed online, or through our call center here, with 30 employees who also handle customer service. Orders before 1 p.m. ship the same day.

Q: How do you source products, what's most popular, and what do they cost?

A: We work with 2,500 third-party brand partners and also have about 100 of our own branded products we make and sell. We have a team that seeks out partners, we go to trade shows, and brands come to us. We have major brands like Tom's of Maine and Badger, to smaller, independent companies, making all-natural, organic, and nontoxic products. Vitamins and supplements are our top category, then personal care and beauty, organic and natural foods and green cleaning products. Products are $10 to $30, on average, and customers spend about $85 per order.

Q: Your customers?

A: We call them health purists who want to live a holistic, healthy lifestyle. They tend to skew more female, many are moms, typically 40s to mid-50s, but we have fitness and yoga enthusiasts in their 20s and 30s.

Q: Value prop?

A: We have 37,000 products in one online store. Nobody else has that level of selection, and we're price-competitive. We also put a lot of effort into vendor relations, we promote the brands and we've become a launching pad for new natural-product vendors. We also have an in-house team that blogs and posts video reviews to educate consumers.

Q: Biggest challenge?

A: We're selling in more than 20 countries. That has its challenges around different products that can go into different countries, taxes and duties.

On Twitter: @MHinkelman

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Michael Hinkelman, Daily News columnist

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