Chain Stores and Locally-Owned, Independent Retailers –
It doesn’t have to be David vs Goliath.
Communities are competing to attract businesses, retail and restaurants. Some people want a Walmart or a Target. Others say those large chains put small businesses out of business. Many communities urge residents to “buy local.” It’s also called “Indie Shopping” now. Online shopping, to some, is the potential death knell to brick and mortar stores. Actually, chains, local shops and franchises can all help to create a better community.
There are differing reasons to shop at a chain store or a local, independent retailer. Many consumers cite price and variety of choices as the reason for shopping at a chain. Other consumers say they get better service at the local shop. Have you ever decided to run in real quick to the local hardware store instead of dealing with the parking lot or crowds of the large chain? Has it been easier sometimes to find knowledgeable help from the local owner? There are consumers who have decided that the more expensive local option with personal service lasts longer and therefore is a better deal. But sometimes you can find what you actually need at the big box because of their buying power.
Of course, online shopping is convenient. It’s great to have stuff delivered to your door, fast. It can harder to return though. It all depends on what you buy and how often. Trying to call or having an online chat can be frustrating due to the “script readers” who don’t seem to understand the nuances of the situation.
Don’t forget the big trend of thrift or secondhand shopping. Both independents and chains are jumping on that bandwagon.
Whether you have chains and/or locally-owned, independent retailers, they can both be a valuable part of the community.
The American Independent Business Alliance says indie shopping or buying local “leverages community funds times three, on average. For example, by supporting a local clothing boutique, a consumer is also supporting a local attorney, tax preparer, and printer. Local businesses tend to source small manufacturing and banking needs closer to home as well.”
Bill Brunelle, project manager of Independent We Stand said in a US News & World Report article, “Locally-owned businesses reinvest in the local economy at a 60 percent higher rate than chains and Internet retailers.”
Where we shop is also about relationships and trust? According to Alexandra Sheehan in her Shopify blog about customer experience, 92% of global consumers trust recommendations.
Locally-owned stores would seem to be able to create relationships and trust easier than the chain store. But Publix is a chain that obviously trains their employees in building relationships and trust. The return policy goes above and beyond. The cashiers and baggers always ask about your day or plans for the weekend. If you go to a chain store on a regular basis, you can develop a relationship with employees. The Walmart manager may join the Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club and sponsor events. The Chick-Fil-A franchise owner can also be a regular chamber breakfast attendee and sponsor charitable events.
There is room for everyone if each knows their brand, is authentic, finds ways of being involved in the community and works at what they do best. Communities should encourage the chain, the franchisee and the independent retailer to invest not only their money but their time and energy into the communities they serve.