Friday, May 29, 2009

Small Retailers Have an Advantage Over Big Boxes During Difficult Economic Times

Written by Doron Levy

I may seem like an outcast to say that, but I do believe that small retailers have an advantage over big boxes during difficult economic times. It boils down to control. Smaller merchants have more of it than their larger competitors.

Yes, smaller guys can control overhead better and can control shrink better and can control image better but what I want to focus on is the people aspect of the business. Providing sterling service in this environment is tough for anyone. Unfortunately for the box, they have a much more tougher time keeping everyone motivated and producing. Cut hours, reduced personnel and reduced customer traffic weigh heavily on the staff and if the manager and director doesn't have a strong presence in the store, it will only compound the issue.

Now smaller guys, and you know who you are, can control this much better than any of the big guys. Levels of communication are reduced and most deployment occurs face to face with your people and that's what's missing from retail nowadays. We have a basic need for human interaction and we can keep our people producing by embracing that. Memos, notes and checklists are fine, but when was the last time you got out on the floor to talk to your people? Find out what's wrong and what's right from the source.

I needed to pickup some Summer supplies for my daughter so I figured the local dollar store would be my best bet. I never go to these places expecting service. I'm in self serve mode when I'm dollar shopping. The experience was probably my best customer service interaction this year. I was greeted, asked if I needed help, I was shown where my items where and to top it all off, the associate got me a basket. I honestly wanted to keep shopping just for the heck of it!

Turns out they just had a meeting about customer service with the owner earlier that day. Music to my ears. He knows that he is working with low margin products so he has to build a bigger basket. That owner should teach Retailing 101.

Doron Levy is president of Captus Business Consulting. Captus provides support to the retail industry. His blog can be found at and can he can be reached at

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