How can independent natural retailers remain competitive and grow in a hyper-competitive market?  This is a question I get asked a lot.  This a question that needs to also include the brands these retailers sell.  Most small brands owe their very existence and their start to the small retailer that took a chance on them when they were starting out.

I’d like to share a story about a local retailer who took on a big box store and is still thriving today. In fact, the large big box store eventually went out of business while the small store continues to thrive. The parallels between small natural and mainstream retailers are identical.

Several years ago, one the first national big-box home-improvement retailers moved into my neighborhood and instantly began to challenge the smaller retailers in the area.  Out of fear, several of the local building suppliers, lumber yards, specialty, and hardware stores tried to compete on price alone and lost.  Some smaller stores chose to discontinue items that were available at the large box store. Consumers eventually stopped shopping at the smaller stores due to their limited selection of key items. They too succumbed and went out of business.

One local hardware store took a different path and survived and they are still thriving today. The key to their success was maintaining the distribution of key items in addition to a wide variety of specialty items. They priced them fairly to remain competitive.  They resisted the urge to engage in a pricing war they had no chance of winning.  They focused instead on their strengths; great selection of the hard to find items and outstanding customer service.  In fact, most of the big-box shoppers eventually went out of their way to shop the little store where they learned how to install or repair everything from toilets to roofing and beyond.  They were happy to pay a little more for products that came with valuable help, instruction, and encouragement.

Read the rest of the article on Whole Foods Magazine

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