Small and independent retailers can sometimes feel helpless when a big national retailer opens up nearby. There is no match for their range, buying power, advertising coverage or even news coverage.
The sheer size of a national competitor is what scares many smaller retailers. It can feel overwhelming.
Here at Tower Systems, all of our customers are local small business retailers, indie retailers, because that is the community we seek out.
Here are 5 practical tips for small businesses on how to face and deal with a national retailer moving into the area:
1. Don’t compete. By not talking about the competitor, pricing against them or pitching your business in any way, you separate yourself. While they may have similar products, it is unlikely that they are targeting your specific business so why target them? Focus instead on your own business. Not competing should include not advertising price comparisons, not focusing on the competitor at staff meetings, not expanding your range to sell more of what they sell and not obsessing about them.
Know why you are different and lean more into that, and, it’s likely that price is not a significant difference in your mind.
If you know why customers shop with you, you have the opportunity of not giving up margin out of fear.
2. Run a better business. From the moment you hear about a new national retailer coming to town, look at every aspect of your business for opportunities for improvement. From the back room to the front counter fine tune your processes, employee training, stock buying and the look of the business. Dramatically improve your business from the inside out. This will improve your business health and help you weather challenges which may lie ahead.
Too often, independent retailers wait until the national retailer is open to react. This is probably a year or two too late.
3. Be unique. Look for ways to make your business unique. It could be on product range, operating hours, add-on services or something else. Embrace any opportunity to make your business unique.
Even a unique niche range of products can give you traffic a big competitor will not chase. Try and focus on products which require a level of retail skill and knowledge to sell – national retailers have challenges hiring and retaining retail employees with specialist knowledge and skills.
4. Engage the community. Like, really engage. Support local groups, speak at functions, get known as someone and a business who care deeply about the local community. Subtly make the connection that you are fortunate to be able to help because of your local business.
Being smaller and independent you are better able to personally engage with the community. You and your team are the business whereas a national chain will always be the corporate. They can throw money around locally, you can throw time, knowledge and more flexible assistance.
5. Tell your stories. Your retail narrative, your stories, connect you with the local community. Tell these through the people you contact, your own blog, a Facebook page and in the pages of the local newspaper. Tell human stories about your business, the people who work in it and the local stories which connect with it.
Your stories could be about local community connection, convenience of shopping, commitment to range, personal customer service, product niche knowledge … there are many different narratives with which an independent retailer can connect. It is important that one you have your narrative you stick to is, that it inhabits your decisions, marketing and public presentation.
Local indie retailers can compete against with any big business by not acting as a big business would. This is the key. Be yourself. Have faith in yourself. Sell yourself.
Now, why is a POS software company sharing something like this? That’s easy – we care about our customers, we care about local indie retail. We’ll embrace any opportunity to help local indie retailers shine.