When there’s not enough business in your small town, get beyond your geographic limits

Webster City bakery with retail pop up

When you re-think place, you can turn an un-used corner in a bakery into a temporary retail space. Photo from Webster City, Iowa, by Becky McCray.

Small towns are by definition a limited market. If you are depending on just your locals for all of your customers, you are limiting the growth of your business.

You may need to reach beyond the geographic limits to find enough customers to be sustainable. So think of ways you can get beyond the borders. Rethink place.

  1. Can you make some sales online?
  2. Can you load up in a trailer and go to nearby markets?
  3. Can you do a pop-up temporary shop in another town for a big festival?
  4. Can you open a second location, maybe inside another store in another town?

My friend Rob was telling me about an ice skating shop that is located with an ice rink and arena. Whenever the local hockey games at the arena are canceled, the shop loses sales. Then five months out of the year, they have almost no foot traffic to the arena, so they do almost no business. I suggested using a trailer to get mobile for holiday sales. Find a friendly parking lot to set up in, and be where the customers are.

In Webster City, Iowa, I saw a bakery/coffee shop/ice cream shop that had a single shelf of retail space filled by another local retailer. They even had a rack of books by a local author. All of these businesses together were re-thinking place.

Spend some time with those questions, and I bet you’ll come up with some creative ways to supplement your small local population and build a stronger business.
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