WSL Future of Health Event

Influential Women: Lael Wilder, H-E-B

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Influential WomenSAN ANTONIO — H-E-B strives to live up to its Here Everything’s Better motto through initiatives aimed at making life better for residents of the Lone Star State, where most stores are located. Empowering H-E-B’s customers to be proactive about their health and wellness is one such initiative. Lael Wilder, who as a senior business development manager oversees several of the retailer’s health and wellness categories, is one of the champions of wellness at H-E-B and is one of the country’s more seasoned merchants in the vitamin and nutritional supplement space.

Wilder’s responsibilities include helping H-E-B deliver the very best assortment of vitamins and mineral supplements, digestive health aids, and a variety of brands related to diet and balanced nutrition. She succeeds by offering a product assortment, along with promotional plans, that appeal to Texans.

H-E-B asked Wilder to take charge of the vitamin category in 2007. Among lessons she’s learned over the ensuing 17 years is that having the right product mix is essential in the dietary supplements space. Brands alone could not drive success; what matters is the combination of the right brands with the kinds of products and ingredients that address customer needs and preferences.

Lael Wilder

Lael Wilder

Wilder credits a friend, a true naturopath, with getting her oriented in what at the time was an unfamiliar category. “She helped coach me, and really got me up and running.”

Paying attention to what customers want can yield big wins, says Wilder, who sensed an opportunity on to go all-in on gummies back in 2009-2010, when many of the leading suppliers in the VMS category were skeptical of the delivery format.

“The kids’ gummies were doing well, and I thought that adults would love gummies too,” Wilder recalls, “and shortly after that the category just exploded, and of course now everyone has gummies.”

Wilder said she also strives to make the shopping experience at H-E-B easy and enjoyable. To that end, she has explored various shelf navigation and product placement strategies. Wilder continues to look for opportunities to improve in-store merchandising, making it easier for shoppers to locate the products they want.

Wilder’s career journey has been serendipitous. As a college freshman, she embarked on a biology major, but quickly realized that was not her true calling. Her change of heart led her away from dissecting frogs and into business, retail in particular, inspired by a family connection. Wilder’s aunt had worked as a retail buyer — a job function she didn’t know existed until that time. She realized: “Retail really looks like it could be a great career fit, I love to shop, and I could get paid to do just that — that’s cool.”


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