The days when the big-box retailer was considered an upstart, a bellicose and obscenely oversized presence that crowds the little guy out of his established space with his sheer size, are gone. The big guy is here to stay, and the rest of the retail world has learned to live with him in their midst.
Still, there is value for independents to always keep front and centre the threat their massive competitors pose. Such thinking will encourage the mindfulness required to maintain the inventive, fresh approach to merchandising they need in such a bloodthirsty game.
To wit, three absolutes for independent retailers looking to hold their own against the big guys.
- Get special. If you steer clear of carrying all the same items as the competing big-box store across the lot from you, and build your business around unique products and niche categories, you’ll always have something to separate yourself from the masses.
- Turn on a dime. Smaller retailers have the enduring advantage of being able to behave in ways much more nimble than their warship-sized rivals. That means having just enough stock to address demand, but not so much that margins and cash flow suffer in an overstocked price-slashing frenzy. If you bring fresh inventory in just in time, your customers will enjoy a sense of constant novelty — and you’ll never be burdened with too much of a good thing.
- Up the service quotient. Everybody’s had the experience of endlessly wandering big-box aisles in pursuit of someone — anyone — who might be able to help with their quests. Here’s where an independent shows its true mettle. Be present, available and never cloying, and that critical segment of customers whose focus is not on price but on product quality, friendly service and a warm atmosphere will take lucrative, loyal note.
Size doesn’t matter, they say, though everyone knows it does. But here’s the news: the maxim doesn’t have to be interpreted in favour of the big guy.