The 7 Most Common Weaknesses of Local Shops
And what we’re all going to do about them.
As we head into the busy holiday shopping season, we’ll see lots of Shop Local messages working to get customers to think about shifting their shopping more to local stores. I want to add another layer, and get rural business owners to think about making Better Local Shopping to hold on to those customers.
After thinking about these issues of local shopping for several years now, I’ve come up with what I see as the top 7 most common weaknesses of small town shops. The more we (local businesses) work to improve in these areas, the more we can make local shopping better and earn the new-found local loyalty of our shoppers.
Because we have the Shop Local movement pushing more people to think about local, all the efforts we make at improving turns into a virtuous cycle: better local shopping, more people thinking local, more sales captured, more repeat sales earned, more prosperity for business, more prosperity in the community.
I’m launching a seven week series on the weaknesses and what we can do about them.
If you’re a local business, you can take these to heart. Make an honest effort to improve in each of these areas over the next 7 weeks. That takes us up to Thanksgiving holiday in the US, Shop Small Saturday, and the final few weeks of holiday shopping everywhere.
If you’re with a Chamber of Commerce or other business organization, you can gather a small group of merchants who want to work on these together. Meet, go over the weakness, brainstorm some ideas, and maybe find ways to share resources and turn them into strengths.
- Weakness 1: Limited Business Hours
- Weakness 2. Poor Customer Service
- Weakness 3. Limited Selection
- Weakness 4: High Prices
- Weakness 5: Dated Appearance or Ugly Buildings
- Weakness 6. Not Marketing
- Weakness 7. Failing the Showrooming Test
Weakness 1. Limited Business Hours
Solution: Be open more evenings and weekends.
Why? Because “70% of all consumer retail spending takes place after 6:00 pm.”
That’s according to Roger Brooks. “While we [customers] are moving to the European standard of dining and shopping later in the evenings, downtowns haven’t made the change at all.”
Idea 1. Be open during the best retail times.
Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor, said, “Studies have shown that, in order, these are the best money making times for retail:”
- Saturday 11 am – 1 pm
- Saturday 3 pm – 5 pm
- Sunday 3 pm – 5 pm
- Sunday 11 am – 1 pm
If you aren’t open weekends, you just missed all four of these.
“Build a schedule for your employees around those higher sales times. Put the customer first when you schedule, not the employee,” Phibbs said.
Idea 2. Be open during evening sales, strolls or art walks.
This lets you ease businesses into longer hours a little at a time. Have artists display their works or musicians perform. Put out refreshments. Run specials or offer other incentives to make a purchase.
Update: If you’ve had trouble getting customers to come into your store when you’re open during evening events, try this practical suggestion in Making evening hours profitable for small town retail stores.
Idea 3: Tie in with businesses that already do evening hours. Check all your existing businesses to see if some, like banks, already stay open late. Use their open hours as an anchor to help attract other businesses.
Ideas 4. Share the cost of adding staff.
New evening and weekend hours will mean a need for increased staffing for most businesses. Catherine Sak, Executive Director of the Texas Downtown Association, said: “I’m part of an open group on LinkedIn – Downtown Revitalization – and one group member mentioned they were considering developing a shared employee program so that small businesses wouldn’t have to shoulder all of the cost of having additional employees – especially for later hours. Really cool idea that could benefit everyone.”
I can’t wait to hear what you come up with for Idea 5!
Update: If you’ve tried longer business hours, but no one showed up, here are some ideas on how to draw customers to your store for evening hours.
These are the kind of practical suggestions that Deb Brown and I have for you in our Downtown After 5 webinar. Join us.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.