Competing with Big Box Stores
One of the greatest fears for any independent shop owner is the introduction of a big box store. Historically, the big box store was the death of the downtown shopping area. Today, however, many consumers have a greater respect and understanding of the importance of supporting local businesses. But this doesn’t always mean that their support can keep a business afloat. So how do you compete with the big box stores? In short, be better than them: from customer service, to the products and product knowledge you provide.
Focus On Providing Customer Service
We are all familiar with the lack of customer service provided by the majority of big box stores. Quite often when you actually need someone to assist you, there is never an employee to be found. As an independent retail shop owner, it is your duty to focus on customer service. Treat each and every customer as your best customer. Returning customers want to feel like they are part of the community and getting to know them on a first name basis can be very important. Overall, you want to leave your customers with a lasting impression of how great it is to shop at your store.
Focus On Providing Quality Products
Big box stores typically carry everything from eggs to chainsaws. As a local independent shop, you need to focus on a niche market. Even though the big box store may carry sunglasses, for example, they can only afford the shelf space to carry a few styles and designs. As a niche store that focuses on quality sunglasses, you can carry many more styles and designs than the big box stores do. The idea is to focus on the quality and originality of your products.
Focus On Product Knowledge
Another complimentary aspect to focus on is product knowledge. You want to make sure you and your staff are experts about the products you sell. Becoming known as the place to go for information on a certain product will greatly increase your customer base. For example, a small town camera shop is sought out by photographers as far as 20–30 miles away. Because the shop owner and employees are regarded as experts on their entire line of merchandise, people are willing to travel the distance.
Focus On Social Media
As a small local business, do not underestimate the power of social media. Creating a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and perhaps even Pinterest will build relationships within your local community. Social media will also help compliment each and every one of the steps above. From providing customer service online, to sending out personal invitations about new product launches or sales events, to being an expert in your niche with an informative blog, social media is one of the best ways to compete against big box stores.
As an independent retail owner, the most important thing to do when faced with the challenge of competing with a big box store is to not panic. While you may initially lose some business, by following the concepts laid out in this article you can build greater visibility and a stronger business presence. By focusing on the needs of your target market, you will grow a much more loyal customer base.