It’s no secret that many small retailers, especially retailers with brick and mortar storefronts, are currently struggling to compete with large retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, and Target. It’s become almost impossible to compete on price, as these large retailers can leverage their size and economic power to negotiate deals with wholesalers and distributors and can offer a seemingly limitless selection of products that can be delivered within days or even overnight.

How Can A Small Business Compete?

To many small businesses and retailers, it almost seems like these stores are too big to realistically compete against, and countless small retailers have closed in the past two decades after finding themselves unable to compete with “big box” and online stores. However, it’s not hopeless – not every consumer and member of your target market is interested in only shopping at the largest retailers. Plus, many are turned off by the ways that the largest retailers often fail their customers, including uninformed and undertrained staff, impersonal or dysfunctional customer service, a lack of premium or high-range products, and even large crowds or long lines at the register. Countering these deficiencies by highlighting the uniqueness of your business can help you win over these shoppers and, hopefully, their friends, family, colleagues, and online followers. Just remember that it’s important to be unique in the right ways.

Ensure That You And Your Employees are Experts, Not Elitists

If you are a niche retailer, there is a good possibility that at least one or more of your employees applied to work for you because they have a personal or professional interest in the product or service you’re offering. For instance, if you specialize in winter sports equipment, there is a good chance that your employees are also interested in skiing, snowboarding, or skating. Even the employees that may not have been personally interested in your products before working for you have undoubtedly become experts through on the job training and interactions with customers. Having a team of highly-motivated and trained product experts can provide you with a distinct advantage over a large retailer whose employees are often required to maintain a broader and generalized knowledge of available products and are often moved from department to department. However, it’s important to make sure your employees aren’t driving away customers by using overly-complicated jargon by assuming that your customers are also product experts or even acting in an alienating or elitist manner. It’s important to regularly shadow your employees during customer interactions and provide guidance and training when necessary.

Listen And Act On Client Feedback Regarding Product Selection

Another reason your customers may have gravitated towards your store instead of a large retailer is the product selection. Even the largest “big box” stores don’t have enough floor space to include a comprehensive product selection for every niche and category. Instead, they attempt to stock the most popular products, providing their customers with a “one-stop” shopping experience. Savvy small retailers who do specialize in one niche category of products can provide their customers with a greatly-expanded range of products, providing an advantage over a larger retailer. Yet in most cases it’s simply impossible to provide every possible product that a customer may want to purchase. In these instances, it is absolutely crucial to offer your customers a way to order the product they want. Simply shrugging and telling the customer that you don’t have the product their seeking doesn’t differentiate your business in any way from a larger retailer, and there’s no reason for them to seek out your business in the future.