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Is Small Specialty Retailing Coming Into Its Own?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

by Kelly Weaver, Small Business Development Center Regional Director


According to some retail experts, we have entered into a new phase of retailing where customers are in the driver seat more than ever.  Accustomed to having an unlimited selection of products at their fingertips, customers are beginning to crave experience over stuff.  The good news is that small independent retailers are better positioned to offer that experience.

Consumers are looking for products and services customized to their specific needs and in line with their values and interests.  We have begun to see the decline of mass marketers with store closings by the top names in retail – Macy’s, Sears, etc.  At the same time, we are seeing local specialty stores opening on our main streets.   That is not to say it is easy or that online shopping won’t continue to play a huge role in retail, but there is a pathway to success in independent retailing.

Demographics are shifting in favor of the small business as well.  The huge Baby Boomer generation is looking for more personal shopping experiences and many prefer a slower place and local experience.  While the Millennials are focused on locally provided goods and businesses that align themselves with a particular interest or cause.

The customer is now in the driver’s seat.  The mere fact that a small shop owner can interact daily with their customers and get to know their needs, wants and desires gives them a leg up on mass market retailers.  But only if they act on that knowledge.  They must fashion everything in their store from the customers’ point of view, not just the product selection. Everything from the greeting to the sounds, smells, displays, attitudes and policies of the company must be crafted and in line with that knowledge. Big box stores can collect data on their customers but cannot replicate the one-on-one personal interaction small business owners have with their customers.

If you are looking for examples or ideas about how you can capitalize on this trend, you may want to put “Shops that Pop!  7 Steps to Extraordinary Retail Success” on your reading list for 2017. (Authors Pamela N. Danziger and Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti, published by Paramount Market Publishing, Inc.)           

Kelly Weaver is the Regional Director of the Small Business Development Center in Aberdeen which offers free, confidential business consulting to start up and existing businesses.  She can be reached at (605) 626-2565 or  The Center is hosted by GROW South Dakota.

Category: GROW SD

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