The Best Independent Retailers: Surviving and Thriving
By Al McClain
recent IIR Fusion Conference, Robert Spector, the author of The
Mom & Pop Store: How the Unsung Heroes of the American Economy
are Surviving and Thriving, talked about
what it takes to operate a successful independent store in today’s
environment. In a world dominated by chains, especially low-priced
chains, he identified some key characteristics of independent retailers,
and highlighted some of those that he thinks are uniquely successful.
characteristics of successful independents:
- Owner/founder needs to think like an independent.
- Have a singular entrepreneurial vision that is hard
- Must be passionate about the business.
- Must be persistent.
- Work hard and do whatever it takes to succeed.
- Must be willing to adapt to change.
- Connect to the community.
Here are some independents that Mr. Spector particularly likes:
- Octavia Books, New Orleans
- Hotwire Online Coffee House,
London Pharmacy, New York City
- Murray’s Cheese Shop,
New York City
- The Great British Pine Mine, Kensington, MD
- Wassler Meat Market,
- The Soda Pop Stop,
- Weiss House Furniture, Pittsburgh
Pinarenes Fruteria, Florida
- The Four Way Restaurant,
- AA Jewel Box, Tustin, CA
Questions: What’s your favorite independent store? What does it
do differently that motivates you to visit it regularly? Is there
a lesson in what makes them special for other independents?
Commentary] Robert Spector painted an upbeat picture for independents
in his talk, contrary to much of what we hear these days. I think part
of that may be that the top-notch independent retailers he profiles in
his book have two really important things in common: 1. Unique product
lines; 2. Great service. It seems to me that the future is limited for
independent stores selling the same assortments as the chains. Even with
great service, it’s hard to imagine building a successful business in
today’s economy if shoppers can go down the street and fill up their
basket 10 to 20 percent cheaper. But, if you are able to specialize in
a unique line or category, like Murray’s Cheese Shop or The Soda Pop
Shop, it should make it a lot easier. And, you still can’t beat the great
service that can be offered by independents.