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.
This is part of 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 these 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 3. Limited Selection
Nothing frustrates a customer more than giving you a chance to help them and then leaving empty-handed. Too often in small towns, stores have the same items “they’ve always had,” missing out on what’s new or what customers want today. Sometimes, I’ll see small town stores with an empty feeling. They may carry the right things, but they don’t have very many of anything.
Don, the hardware store owner in Concrete, Washington, told me a customer may come wanting three things. If he doesn’t have any one of them, the customer is likely to not buy any of the others, knowing they have to make a trip to the big box store.
Solution: Connect your retail selection to what customers want.
Time to modernize your selection and match the market.
Need a younger outlook? Let students and young people pick the products, maybe even stock and decorate a small section of your store.
Can’t offer everything anyone might want all year round? Try a temporary pop-up. You have probably seen temporary stores in malls or in big cities. They are opened only for the holidays or a special event. Then they’re gone again. Why not take that approach to one section of your store? Pop-up special items, making sure customers know these are limited time only offers.
I know my own liquor store can’t possibly carry every wine or liquor out there, but we try to keep up with trends and carry what people want. Our customers help us when they ask for a new item. Often, we’ll get a few just to try it out. The alternative is to get left behind by the rapidly-shifting market.
To avoid “out of stock” syndrome, try finding additional suppliers, or maybe partnering with other regional stores to share stock. Get creative, but don’t run out if you can help it!
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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.