How to Win Against the Big Guys
Posted: May 20, 2014
Whether you’re a specialty clothing store, a coffee shop or a jewelry store, don’t think that just because a Macy’s, Starbucks or Zales is around the corner, that you don’t have a chance to shine and excel.
One advantage of being a smaller, more nimble enterprise is that you’re novel and not cut from the cookie-cutter mold that big chains are. Competition can be your friend. The big stores may have an advantage of scale and size, but a smaller store can be more adaptable, flexible, and responsive to trends and customer requests. Big-store strategies and product lines may be slower to change and implement, whereas your shop may be able to control product variety and quantity better.
Profits earned from local stores will most likely be re-generated and spent within the local community, so it pays to encourage shopping among residents.
You may be able to customize products more readily and stand out in customer service. The presence of larger competitors can also spur strategic alliances with other smaller stores to build on a range of products and services you offer.
A big-box store could serve to expand your own products and services. Also, building on your differences can result in creating a niche that only your store can fulfill and grow. Having a business plan, staying focused and sticking to it, is vital to your longevity.
If your bigger neighbor lowers prices, you can focus on providing singular customer service and personal touches. If your competitor targets your demographic, create a unique in-store experience that can’t be copied or matched by the other store.
Know your customers and find out what they want, and go above and beyond to meet their expectations. Learning your customers’ names, staying in touch with them, and letting them know of new products and services you offer can give you a leg up on your competition.
Create your own image and culture. Starbucks not only sells coffee—they sell a certain community “vibe.” Apple goes way beyond selling computers and phones—they evoke a hip, cool image and design.
Mark Trujillo, owner of the Hub Coffee shops in Reno, NV, provides this valuable input: "Stick to your business plan. Your overall culture is your culture; it's what sets you apart." While people have advised him to do things differently, his own vision has kept his coffee shops flourishing: "I've had people tell us we're not going to stay in business because we don't carry nonfat milk," he said. (His stores carry only soy milk and whole cow's milk.) "You don't want to carry the same product as everybody else and think you do it better."
Dave Ratner in Agawam, MA, owns a 7-store chain: Dave’s Soda and Pet City and his keys to success are clearly spelled out in his “customer-first” strategies:
- Make any problems or service issues your customer may have go away quickly by responding immediately and pro-actively.
- Tell a story and connect with your customers.
- Create emotional ties to your customers. Dave's gives gift cards to pet shelters, who refer customers, and publicize it.
- Being nice counts. Ratner often goes out of his way to write thank-you notes to customers.
- He keeps popular items in stock, which his behemoth competitor Petco does not.
- Create personalized product lines that state your mission and desire to ensure quality.
- Make sure your staff is well-trained and educated on all the products you sell, i.e. make them the experts and let them serve as resources for valuable advice.
- Work as a team and show that you do.
Retail staffing firms are a valuable resource for strategy and staffing, ensuring your vision remains YOUR vision and not someone else’s.TAGS: retail, retail trends, staffing, retailers,