Where Do YOU Shop?

Let’s start with a basic assumption.  You offer your customers a unique value proposition.  You don’t have the cheapest prices in town, but you provide benefits to your customers that far outweigh any price advantage your larger competitors might have.  You’ve taught your people to sell the benefits of shopping in your store.

Every customer who comes into your store is greeted with a smile.  You treat them so many different ways they have to like one of them.  You get every customer’s name and contact information, whether they buy from you or not.  All sales are followed up with a thank you note.  You send regular emails and snail mail to each person on your contact list with helpful information, including news about the latest and greatest new products.  You seem to be doing everything right.

So, the question today is "Where do you shop?"  What I mean is this:  Where do you buy your office supplies?  Where do you buy your tools?  Where do you buy your light bulbs?  If you’re buying anything from a big box store, STOP!!! 

What message do you send your customer when she sees a box of Wal*Mart brand tissues sitting on your counter?  What about those Office Depot note pads sitting around?  What does it say to your employees when they see Target brand cleaning supplies in the back room?  Or KMart light bulbs?

You preach a message of value rather than price, but your actions say something else.  Suppose your customer’s husband owns the local True Value and she sees a box of Wal*Mart branded trash bags sitting on your counter.  Is she likely to want to be your customer?

You’ve given your employees all the reasons why it’s better to buy from your local store, but then you send one of them to Target to buy supplies.  Are they confused?  Do they have a reason to doubt your sincerity?  You bet!

If you’re going to live by the gospel of supporting your local merchants, you’d better really live by it.  I once attended a workshop on "How to Beat Chain Store Competition."  One tip the presenter gave involved taking pictures of customers.  This was before digital cameras and photo printers.  He suggested that the cheapest place to get pictures printed was at the local warehouse club.  I wonder how the guy down the block who owns the local photo store would feel about that suggestion?  How would YOU feel if you knew that your neighbor had bought something that you sell from Sam’s or Costco?

Contributing to your competitor’s bottom line is a bad idea.  The advent of the big box retailers has made your life more difficult.  Why would you want to give part of your hard-earned profit to them? 

In this case, that’s the least of your worries.  If the independent retailer is going to prosper, it’s going to be by presenting a united front.  That means that the vac shop owner buys his kid’s bicycle from the local bike shop.  The owner of the bike shop buys his wife’s sewing machine from the locally owned sewing center.  The sewing center owner buys her couch from the family-owned furniture store.  The owner of the furniture store buys her light fixtures from the lighting showroom.  And the owner of the lighting showroom buys vacuums for his business and his home from the vac shop.  And none of them buys their office supplies from the big box store.

See how the money stays in circulation among the local business people?  What you and I spend isn’t going to make or break any of the big chains.  But where you shop can have a big impact on your bottom line.

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2 Responses

  1. While True Value might be independantly owned, in my area they are most definately a competitor selling bags and belts at lower pricing. Also they sell the HooBissRekaDevil junk just like a box store.

  2. Phil,

    Excellent point! Do you think the hardware store actually sells many vacs? If they do sell any, where do they send their customers for service?

    Your comment raises two questions. One, when the hardware store competes with you, where do you and other readers buy your hardware items? And, two, have you considered approaching the True Value store to do their service.

    If you were to do their service, you would have a strong selling story to tell and a chance to upgrade their customers when their cheapo vac either doesn’t do the job or dies a premature death.

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