Independent Has No Fear of Competition
By George Anderson
In his 1933 inaugural speech, Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the psychological aspects of the Great Depression head on. “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
For many independent retailers, the news that a big box competitor is moving into their territory is enough to cause another type of depression and, for many, that has brought on a paralysis that ends with ‘Going Out of Business” signs posted on store windows.
Adam Nappi, owner of the 3,000 square-foot Bow Street Market in Freeport, Maine, was determined not to become another casualty in the battle against large chain stores.
Mr. Nappi hired a grocery industry consultant to find out what his customers — especially the best ones — liked about Bow Street Market so that he could build his business on those strengths.
“I started to learn that the true assets of Bow Street Market are our people,” he said. “It’s all about people.”
According to a report on the MaineToday.com Web site, “Bow Street Market overhauled its job descriptions, reorganized staff, created new leadership positions, undertook professional development training that continues today, scheduled each shift with leadership trained in customer service skills, and focused on hiring candidates with people skills versus experience in specific functions.”
“If you can develop people to be leaders in customer service work, you are setting yourself up for some quantum leaps,” said Mr. Nappi.
“We are growing and we expect to continue to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace as we move from our core group, expanding the customer service training to our other staff,” he added.
The research conducted for Bow Street Market also provided additional learning for Mr. Nappi and his staff. Saying the research “confirmed what we already knew”, Mr. Nappi said his business is “not a grocery store where people do a once a week shop; we’re a market that people visit daily.”
“People aren’t coming here for a selection of 40 different types of paper towels,” he said, “so we reduced the varieties of paper towels and added the kinds of things that daily shoppers wanted – the rotisserie chicken, home-made deli items and the bottle of wine.”
To date, Bow Street’s approach appears to be working. Sales at the store have actually increased in the 14 months since the big box opened for business.
Future success, said Mr. Nappi, comes down to refusing to stand pat. “It’s all about people and as our customers change, we have to lead or keep pace with that change,” he said.
Moderator’s Comment: Do you believe that owners and executives of retail businesses have psyched themselves out of being successful in the face of competition?
What are the lessons of the Bow Street Market experience? –
George Anderson – Moderator
- Thinking outside the box – MaineToday.com
- Franklin D. Roosevelt First Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1933 – Bartelby.com