The independent retailer lives on
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
One undercurrent I felt very strongly at the recent Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago was the presence and predicament of the small, independent retailer.
Sure, some of the technology providers there could scale up to tier one and tier two proportions, but a notable focus was on the small retailer as well — rightfully, and necessarily so. While technology has changed and evolved, the independent retailer — even without storefronts — still works far more than the 40-hour week (or even 50-hour week) of his larger brethren.
As the daughter of an independent retailer, I saw my father get postcards pre-printed when he’d run a sale. He would address them by hand and I would fill in the zip code on the front. We’d mail them to all his existing customers, whose names he gathered by hand from sales receipts. Today, all kinds of e-mail programs can send targeted (and all-too-often untargeted) e-mails with the offer of the day. If you buy online, the retailer automatically gets your name, address and e-mail. Challenges now are more about having a single customer list for all the channels where business is conducted.
While my father would also run small ROP (run of paper) ads in local newspapers from time-to-time in hopes of attracting new shoppers, the independent internet retailer focuses on search engine optimization (SEO). I have a client who built a business from zero to a $300,000/year run rate in eighteen months by spending 70-80 hours a week working on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). That’s right, 70-80 hours of his own time to go along with the money he spent on SEO providers.
The long and the short of it is that the independent retailer still works really, really hard. Sure, some challenges have been solved by technology. But those same technologies create shiny new challenges that require hours of work, thought and effort. I, for one, appreciate their efforts and make every attempt I can to support them whenever possible. I hope you will too!
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How have you seen independents take advantage of retail technology to undercut the advantages of their larger chain rivals? What other advantages do independents have that big chains fail to match, even with technology?