Monday, April 7, 2014

Small store survival

     Free daily advice for people in small business
     from someone who has been there, done that.

     Big box stores can wreak havoc on local small stores. When the big box opens, small stores that have served the community for years can be in trouble. 

     It doesn't have to be this way.

     Big box stores typically do not offer the personalized service that the small store can offer. Just try asking for an item not found on big box shelves. Flustered clerks run to the company's computer--only to report that the item is not available.

     Smaller stores can stock items that the big box won't carry. Sometimes these are everyday items. Other times they are higher end and higher priced. And small store customer service is a joy to deal with.

     Small hardware stores have been particularly hard-hit by the big boxes. Other types of stores can feel the same pressures.

     Example: I know a small hardware store that suffered great losses in business when the big box store opened in town. The owner re-invented the small business. In addition to specialty hardware, he began offering rentals--including trucks and trailers. It took time and careful thinking, but it worked.

     Example: Another hardware store owner told me that she did not worry about the big box stores opening all around her. Her secret had always been top-of-the-line service, advice and information as well as extensive lines of stock. Professional plumbers and electricians depend on her and flock to her store, as well as homeowners looking to replace antique hardware. They appreciate the service, and they know that she will get them anything they might need--quickly and at competitive prices. Yes, she is completely computerized, and her store offers an extensive inventory of out-of-date items. 

     Other examples: Small toy stores can specialize in carrying not only the latest toys but older toys as well, along with an extensive selection of games. Bicycle shops can carry a wider selection of bikes than might be offered at the big box--including high end bikes--and they can offer club discounts, sponsor excursions, do repairs and the like. Specialty growers can display unusual annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees not offered at the big discounters. Bakers compete by offering high-end, custom confections. And so it goes.

     Big box stores definitely have a place in our diverse economy. If I need a flat-head screwdriver, I'll be able to find a big selection there. But if I need an unusual size or one that will hold up for years, better to check with my local small store.

     Owners of small stores know that they cannot compete with the big boxes on price alone. The big box will always win out on lower prices. But you can compete on the quality of everyday items as well as the higher end products. And your knowledgeable, friendly customer service will beat the big box every time.

     If you have questions on this or any other topic covered in my blog,
     email me direct at: and put BLOG in the subject line.
     Your privacy always respected. 

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