A small shop’s fight to stay competitive and win the battle

by Ashvini on May 29, 2013 · 8 comments

in Business

It is difficult for a small business to compete with big business, so it makes my day when I see a small business that is not only doing good but thriving while competing with business at least one hundred/thousand times its size.

On a street close to the place I live, you will find the best of the multinational and Indian brands. You would find retail malls run by big brands. To a person visiting the street, they are literally firing up the retail space on that street.

There is a 80 * 60 feet shop on the same street which is not comparable at all to multi level malls. When malls proliferated, it was felt that the shop would close down. But to everyone’s surprise , not only the shop is doing well but the big giants have faltered. It seems that the giants miscalculated on their strategy while the small shop owner who stuck with the tested strategy survived.

The shop was present on the same street when the concept of mall was not very popular. It was only a few shops which you could go for when you wanted something. The employees were not “trained” in corporate sense. Rather they were a bunch of poorly trained people, told to please every customer that entered the premise. As a result you could see more than two people rushing to you the moment you entered a shop. For people used to asking around for information, this might be unusual but it is how they do business It feels just great when you just stand there and list everything that you need. You don’t even have to move a single bit and everything would be in front of you.

No changes in look and feel

The shop never changed the way it looked. It is as cluttered as ever. They don’t spend a dime on advertising. Their stuff flows out of shop. If you are on your own, you need to search deep to find what you are looking for. Otherwise you just need to ask the ever eager employees. They never went ‘upscale’. They just stayed where they were.

Stocking everything that they can

To give you an idea of what they stock: you can find anything from toiletries, food items, kitchen items, gifts, electronic goods , video games and many other stuff in that small shop. You just need to scan the store and it is quite possible that you would find something that you always wanted to pick up but forgot. The presence of so many items increase chance of sale of at least one item per customer.

Responding to customer’s need

If they don’t have something in stock, they always promise to get that for you as soon as possible. They might even surprise you with alternatives which are not too bad. Their responsiveness to customer helps them close the deal and make money on almost every customer that enters the shop. Due to the variety of product and competitive prices they sell on,  they are able to make sale most of the time.

Deep understanding of the place they are at and customers they serve

The store never went out to woo additional customers. They know their customers very well and know what makes the customer tick. They are able to get repeat buyers and thus are able to keep their customers.

The big retail chain however do everything opposite to what this successful small shop is doing. Their customer service is not at par, the services are not personalized and they don’t stock enough items to make a sale. It somehow seems that they are have either not figured out what works for them or are unwilling to make thing work.

This small shop provides valuable insight into how to survive and keep the sales even in a hypercompetitive retail sector.

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Daria Steigman June 10, 2013 at 10:58 pm

Hi Ashvini,

Here, it was Bruce’s Variety — a small, cramped with everything store where you could find thread, birthday candles, school supplies, party napkins, etc. It has been surrounded by big brands moving in and managed until very recently to hold on. For years, whatever knick knack you were looking for, the answer was “try Bruce’s Variety.”

Great point: it’s really about knowing who you are, what your customers want, and knowing what you’re the “most” at (most convenient, most customer-oriented, or something else).

Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 13, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Hi Daria,

Great example. When the big brands ( both domestic and foreign) arrived in retail, it was thought that small retailers were going to parish. It did not happen ( thankfully ) and a large number of local shops with deep connections to the customer base survived.
The points that you mentioned matter a lot for business, more for small businesses.

David Tucker June 6, 2013 at 11:56 am

Those were really interesting observations. It would be great if more big and small firms paid more attention to what’s really important – personalized services and customer care. In most cases it’s much more important than spending much on advertizing and apple-pie order in the shopping area.

Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 6, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Hi David,
Welcome to this blog. Yes, personalized service is one great way to win over the customer. A lot of money is spent on advertising which in my opinion is not the best utilization of resources.

Thanks for your comment :)

Christian June 2, 2013 at 10:56 pm

I like the idea of knowing and fully understand your customers. Big companies lost this and I think there is a new wave in the air of people that are sick of huge corporation kill off the little guy who by all means understood them better.

Lori Gosselin May 31, 2013 at 1:10 am

Ashvini, I love stories like this! I enjoy reading about what you observe in the business world! More of this please! ;-)

Ashvini Kumar Saxena June 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Thanks Lori, I love to see what works great for business and share it with all :)

Zalando May 30, 2013 at 6:58 pm

In a small shop, one will always find quality material at much cheaper prices as compared to big names which charge heavy sum of money.

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