Mrs. Carroll– We have not seen you for a while– we have meat on sale today!

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   This blog title was what my cousin told me the other day when I was at her house!  She was referring to a small, hometown owned grocery store that was trying to compete, unsuccessfully, with a large chain store that had come to her town.
    I asked my cousin why the store manager told her this.  My cousin said that indeed, she had not been in the hometown store for some time.  I asked why?
    Here is what she said– The store is dark, dingy and most of the refrigeration equipment never seems to be working satisfactorily!  She said that there is always one cooler, if not more, that is broke down, “waiting for parts”.  In the meantime, there is no product in that cooler!  Sadly, the same can be said for the rest of the products– the small, hometown store only had 1 or 2 of any certain product and the size was either too small or too big for my cousin’s needs.
    As we talked more, I found out that the lady who is currently running the store is a daughter of the original owner, who has since expired.  The small, hometown store was very, very successful for many years before the arrival of the chain store.  However, once the chain store arrived, the small home town store lost business.  The new store was bigger, brighter, had a much greater product selection and all of the equipment was always operational.  The motivation to patronize the small home town store became less now that other options were available in this small town.
    As business owners, competition from a large “box” store or big grocery chain is something that we must be constantly vigilant about.  As we have discussed many times, you cannot compete on price–you should not even try.  However, what you can compete on is value and service.  People continue to be willing to pay for better value and service– sometimes at a very substantial premium.
    How does your store compare with the large chain or box stores?  Is the store dark and dimly lit?  Are the displays tired and shop worn appearing?  Is the staff courteous and friendly?  Do you make it “easy” for someone to shop at your store?  Are all of the “coolers” or other product display cabinets in good working order?
    If the answer is no to any of the above questions, then you probably need to think about making some changes.  Given today’s shopping environment, when people have choices, they will exercise those choices.  Don’t force them to going to a big chain box store or competitor when you can make the necessary changes to provide a rich, rewarding shopping experience in your business.  The cost involved in keeping everything in working order is small compared to trying to retain a long time customer that has left for the big box store.

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