Small Retailers: Don't Emulate Big Biz, Outpace Them
I'm often amazed when smaller businesses think the secret of success is to be more like the big ones. The opposite is true.
In my local town we had only two fishmongers, and life was good for the fishy folk. Then within two years we were bestowed with a Tesco, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. I love buying fresh fish, so keenly observed what happened next to the local shops.
Fishmonger One started to complain about Tesco. He complained to the local press, the other retailers and even his customers. I remember him telling me that he couldn't compete on price with Tesco (I hadn't even asked about price!). After a lame and bitter fight, he closed and even put a notice in his window blaming Tesco et al.
Fishmonger Two was different. She got to work creating a local brand and local loyalty, she would tell you about the fish, when and where it was caught and offer some little extras if you spent a few pounds more. She must have felt the effects of the three new arrivals in town but she didn't complain once. She survived, thrived and of course since her rival closed she's never been busier.
Don't try to be like the big boys. Flip It and find out what they don't do that you can, and what you do that they can't.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Speed it up. What do we want? Speedy service! When do we want it? NOW! Smaller retailers can often change faster, adapt more easily and manage trends more quickly than the big boys. However, looking at many smaller retailers the opposite appears to be true. What can you do to get a first mover advantage?
Specialise. How can you apply your specialist knowledge to what you do? How many years of experience do you have that you don't tell your customers about? I watched a gent's outfitter close down and blame ?£30 suits from ASDA as the problem. Do you really think that was the real reason? If you have a speciality to be proud of, shout about it and work hard to get even better.
Create customer loyalty. My friend Jeffrey Gitomer wrote a great book called, "Customer Satisfaction is Worthless. Customer Loyalty is Priceless!" Think for a moment about the lifetime value of a customer. That's their entire spend with you over the next 50 years. Isn't it worth creating an amazing customer experience for these people? Yet how often do you see the small retailer being outdone in the customer service stakes by offering POOR service.
There's a fantastic opportunity for the right small retailers to stop moaning to the people who could be their biggest advocates, to get creative, give a bit more oomph to their businesses and focus on what customers really want.
There has never been a better time to be a small retailer.
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