What’s Your Biggest Challenge as a Small Retailer?
My wonderful digital scale that I bought at Sharper Image 10 years ago finally gave out on me. So, I went to the mall to buy a new one only to discover that the Sharper Image store was lo longer there. What to do???
I had just seen a survey of 100 or so small retailers that were asked what their biggest challenge is going into 2013. “The Internet” was their biggest concern.
I decided to find out for myself, so I went to Google looking for a digital scale that measures body fat in addition to weight. I discovered that Walmart and Best Buy both sell one. Because I would like to see it before buying it, I called both stores and they were both “out of stock” but said they would “order it for me.”
A friend of mine recently told me that he buys all sorts of things at Amazon. I thought all they sold was books. So, I went to Amazon, found the same scale in stock at about the same price as Walmart, so I ordered it. I was eager to get it, so I checked the box that guaranteed delivery in three days. I failed to read the fine print, and when I saw the charge, I noticed that the cost of shipping was more than the scale. When it arrived I was excited, but when I opened it up I was overwhelmed by the complexity and the detailed directions. I finally figured it out, but in less than a month it broke.
I trashed the fancy scale and went back to Amazon and ordered a simple analog scale. It was actually more expensive than the fancy digital one, but I was getting smarter now, so I became a Prime member and got it shipped for free.
The score was now two scales sales for Amazon and one lost sale for three different retailers simply because they didn’t have what I wanted when I wanted it. In the “old days” I would have waited or shopped around, but I found it easier to buy it from Amazon.
I went into the large Apple store in Waikiki to stock up on my favorite screen cleaner, iKlear. I looked all over the store but couldn’t find it. I flagged down a “salesperson” and asked where it is. She too couldn’t find it and offered to “go in the back and see if there was some there.” When she returned she told me that they don’t carry it any longer and suggested that I try a different brand. I didn’t want to do that, so I asked her if one of their other stores carried it. She didn’t know, so I went to their biggest store at Ala Moana Shopping Center. They didn’t have any either but agreed to call the Kahala Mall store for me. No luck there either, what to do???
By now I knew what to do. I went to Amazon, found it; in stock and stocked up!
Magnetic Eye Glasses Holder
I saw this really cool device on Shark Tank which allows you to hang your reading glasses on your shirt. Misplacing reading glasses has been a problem for me for a very long time, so I thought, “This is just what I need.” I had no idea where to buy it however, so I clicked on to Amazon and searched for “magnetic eyeglass holder.” Exactly what I was looking for popped up, so I ordered it immediately. When it arrived and I began using it several people commented on it and asked me where I got it. I said, “I’ll get one for you.” I went back to Amazon and bought six more.
A week later while watching Shark Tank I saw a young entrepreneur with an idea to block that “black hole” between your car seat and center console where things fall and disappear forever. I wasn’t even sure if it was on the market yet however I jumped onto Amazon and searched for Drop Stop and sure enough there it was. I ordered it immediately.
When I opened up the Drop Stop package I was surprised to find two other bonus items in there that I did not realize they were sending me. One was a cool wallet sized LED flashlight; the other a non-slip pad with two sticky sides to keep things in place. I guess they had me pegged as a guy who wants to keep control of things. They were right! I went back to Amazon and bought 10 of those to use as cool giveaways.
I was impressed and amazed by a 17-year-old girl that came on Shark Tank promoting her Simple Gifts Farm Sugar Scrub which she had invented at 11 years old. She was so passionate and excited about the moisturizing benefits of this product that I just had to give it a try. I found it easily on Amazon and went through the first jar in no time, then went back and ordered two more.
When my two jars of sugar scrub arrived there was a bonus in there; a Simple Gifts Farm Vanilla Lime Lip Balm. Hawaii has a way of drying out one’s skin and lips, so I am finding these products to be wonderful.
A Closer Look
I live on the 20th floor of our building overlooking Honolulu Harbor. There is always something interesting to look at from up here like cruise ships from around the world. When I moved in I had a crummy pair of binoculars that I could not keep focused. I had been meaning to buy a better pair for the past two years, but nothing moved me to do it. Then one day I thought, “Aha, how about Amazon?” You got it… I bought a cool pair of zooming binoculars and will start looking through them any day now.
One day my wife said, “Please keep your eyes open for some special red lens glasses. This is what we use in art class to be able to see the distinct, subtle differences in colors. The ones we use came from a toy store.” I said, “Watch this” as I opened up Amazon and found what she wants in a matter of minutes.
It seems like I am ordering something new almost every day now and as a result, finding surprises sitting on my office chair every evening when I come home. As a person who never goes shopping, I have found this to be pretty amazing. I don’t even remember what’s on the way to me now.
ATTENTION SMALL RETAILERS:
Yes, you can compete with all of this, but not by standing by the register waiting for people to buy.
In spite of the fun I have had ordering from Amazon, the truth is I would much rather be dealing with a live human being in a store.
But… You Must:
-Make shopping a fun experience.
-Let people know about you.
-Let people know what you have to sell.
-Have it in stock!
-Have Fair Prices.
-Make it EASY to shop.
-Never make people wait.
-Make every customer feel special.
Yes, the Internet has brought about some new competition and challenges. However I still find every mall crowded with shoppers. Your job is to convert them to buyers.
-People like to shop.
-People like to be around other people.