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As the holiday shopping season approaches, are you getting discouraged by visions of shoppers heading to Walmart on Black Friday and ignoring your store? Well, cheer up. According to a study by Spong, reported in MediaPost, 30 percent of shoppers say if all things were equal, they would choose local over national brands “always” or “most of the time.”

By contrast, only 12 percent of marketers in the study thought whether a brand was local or not mattered to consumers. In other words, you’ve got more of a local advantage than you think — good news as we head into the critical holiday retail shopping season.

So how can you give your retail store local advantage and make the most of consumers’ inherent desire to patronize local brands? Read on for a guide.

Why Consumers Prefer Local Retailers Over National Chains

retail store local advantage

Many consumers are increasingly drawn to the charm, authenticity, and community-centric ethos of small, local retailers as opposed to the often impersonal feel of national chains. One of the fundamental reasons behind this preference is the unique, personal shopping experience that small businesses provide, allowing them to build stronger, more personal connections with their patrons. Unlike large chains that often standardize their offerings and shopping experiences across the country, local retailers often have the flexibility to tailor their products and services to the specific needs and preferences of the community they serve.

Additionally, supporting local businesses frequently aligns with consumers’ values related to economic sustainability. When people shop locally, they are directly contributing to the prosperity of their own community. The money spent in local stores tends to remain within the community, helping to support other local businesses, services, and job creation. Furthermore, local retailers often carry unique, handcrafted, or specialized products that aren’t available in national chains, appealing to those looking for distinctive items.

Here are some key reasons consumers prefer small, local retailers:

  • Personalized Service: Local businesses often offer a more personalized and attentive customer service experience.
  • Unique Offerings: They often stock items that are unique, artisanal, or catered to local tastes.
  • Community Connection: Shopping locally allows consumers to feel a stronger connection to their community.
  • Economic Impact: Money spent at local businesses is more likely to stay within the community, supporting other local ventures and job creation.
  • Ethical Considerations: Many local businesses follow sustainable practices and support local artisans, resonating with ethically-minded consumers.
  • Authenticity: Local retailers often have authentic stories, histories, and connections to the community that can’t be replicated by larger chains.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Shopping locally can reduce the environmental impact due to reduced transportation and shipping.
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In essence, the shift towards local shopping is not just a trend, but a reflection of consumers’ desires for more genuine interactions, ethical considerations, and the longing to feel part of a larger community-centric narrative.

Challenges of Running a Local Retail Business

retail store local advantage

Local retailers face a myriad of challenges when competing with national chains, which often have vastly superior resources and economies of scale. National chains, with their expansive budgets, can often out-price, out-advertise, and outpace smaller retailers in several arenas. Furthermore, their established brand recognition often means that they are the first port of call for many customers.

One significant challenge for local retailers is the limited budget for marketing and promotions. Unlike national chains that have vast marketing departments and budgets, local retailers often must rely on grassroots methods or word-of-mouth advertising. This can make it difficult for them to reach a larger audience and draw in new customers.

Another challenge comes in the form of purchasing power. National chains can buy in bulk, leading to significant discounts from suppliers. This bulk purchasing allows them to price their products more competitively, which local retailers often find hard to match. Moreover, national chains benefit from sophisticated supply chain and inventory management systems, ensuring optimized stock levels and reduced overhead costs.

Additionally, national chains can provide a consistent experience across all their locations, which is appealing to many customers. On the other hand, local retailers, with their individualized approach, may struggle to guarantee the same level of consistency, which some customers might perceive as a risk.

Here are some specific challenges faced by local retailers:

  • Limited Marketing Budgets: Less money for advertising and promotions compared to national chains.
  • Reduced Purchasing Power: Inability to buy in bulk and secure hefty supplier discounts.
  • Lack of Brand Recognition: National chains often have established brand trust and recognition.
  • Limited Resources: Fewer funds for store upgrades, technology, and employee training.
  • Consistency Challenges: Struggling to provide a consistent shopping experience due to localized operations.
  • Competitive Pricing: Difficulty in matching the low prices offered by larger chains due to higher costs.
  • Reduced Operating Hours: Unlike chains, local retailers may not be able to stay open for extended hours or every day of the week.
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Despite these challenges, many local retailers leverage their unique strengths, such as personalized service, community ties, and niche offerings, to carve out a space for themselves in the retail landscape. However, the competition with national chains remains a significant hurdle that requires innovative strategies and continuous adaptation.

Gain the Local Advantage

If you’re ready to call attention to your local retail business, here are some effective tactics to try.

Think Local When it Comes to SEO

retail store local advantage

Incorporate local keywords, such as your city, neighborhood, shopping center name or even street name when doing your SEO, as well as into any online advertising that you do.

Try Geo-targeting

retail store local advantage

This mobile marketing method uses GPS information about where consumers are at any given moment to send marketing messages to them in certain geographic areas. Geo-targeting is an option for Bing Ads or Google AdWords, as well as Facebook ads. It lets you do things like send offers to people who are near your store — or near your competition’s store so you can lure them away.

Get Involved in Community Business Organizations

retail store local advantage

If you think your local Chamber of Commerce and similar business organizations are corny, think again. By attending these groups and really getting involved, you can make valuable connections and discover new ideas, resources and partnerships for marketing your business.

Give Back to Your Community

retail store local advantage

The holidays are a natural time for doing good, and consumers especially love it when businesses participate in their community and local organizations that customers care about. (Check out my recent article for more holiday charity marketing tips.)

Selling By Walking Around

retail store local advantage

Don’t hide away in the back of your retail store working on inventory or doing the books. Save that for after hours and spend the valuable time when your store’s open out on the sales floor, mingling with customers. People love to buy from real people who live in their communities, rather than from faceless corporations. When they get to know you as a person, they’ll be more inclined to come back again and again. (Bonus: By really being present in your store, you’ll be better able to guide your salespeople and ensure they’re performing the way you want.)

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Partner with Other Independent Business Owners

retail store local advantage

Is your business located in a busy downtown shopping area? A suburban mall? A hip, trendy neighborhood? Wherever you are, there are other retailers and small, independent businesses nearby that could all benefit from working together. Does your community have a Buy Local program? Ask around, and if there isn’t a program in your area, consider starting one. The American Independent Business Alliance has lots of resources to help.

Take Advantage of Small Business Saturday

retail store local advantage

Held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday is sponsored and supported by a wide variety of organizations, including American Express and the SBA. The event encourages shoppers to purchase from local, independent businesses instead of national chains when doing their holiday shopping on this day and throughout the holiday season. You can learn more and access tons of marketing materials and resources at the Small Business Saturday website.

Tactic Description Benefits Possible Limitations
Think Local When it Comes to SEO Incorporate local keywords into your SEO and online advertising. Improved online visibility in local searches. Keyword stuffing can hurt SEO if not done properly.
Try Geo-targeting Send marketing messages based on consumers’ GPS location. Targeted advertising; potentially higher conversion rates. May require more sophisticated technology and could be seen as intrusive.
Get Involved in Community Business Organizations Participate in local business groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce. Networking, discover new marketing ideas, partnerships. Can be time-consuming; not all meetings/events may be beneficial.
Give Back to Your Community Participate in local charities and organizations, especially during holidays. Enhances brand image; fosters trust and goodwill. May require financial or time investment.
Selling By Walking Around Mingle with customers on the sales floor instead of staying in the back. Builds personal relationships, which can foster loyalty and repeat business. May be challenging for large stores or during peak times.
Partner with Other Independent Business Owners Collaborate with nearby retailers and businesses for joint promotions. Shared customer base; cost-effective marketing. Conflicts of interest might arise; collaboration requires effort.
Take Advantage of Small Business Saturday Participate in the post-Thanksgiving event promoting local businesses. Increased foot traffic; access to promotional materials. Only once a year; larger retailers may overshadow smaller businesses.

By taking these simple steps to gain the local advantage, you’ll help give your small retail store the full benefits of the local advantage. How do you “think local”?

Buy Local Photo via Shutterstock

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