Small retailers capitalize on strengths over holidays
New York – Independent retailers who’ve had a successful holiday season say they took advantage of the fact that there are strengths in not being huge.
Store owners report they were able to change pricing and other strategies quickly. Many offered customers more personal service and a warmer atmosphere. And they said they used social media tools designed for smaller companies, including inexpensive ads on Facebook.
How successful the season was for the retail industry as a whole won’t be known until figures from market researchers and the government arrive in January. And after-Christmas business can make a difference.
Bekka Palmer, who sells baskets, tote bags and jewelry in New York, says she sold at pop-up markets where shoppers gave her feedback that let her know she’s on the right track.
Jon Abt says his appliance and furniture store held its own against competition like Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and more, by capitalizing on advantages it has over the big guys.
Abt offers free technical support for the life of a product and some free delivery. The store, in the Chicago suburb of Glenview, also offers chocolate chip cookies, a Santa every weekend during the holidays, and an aquarium in the store year-round that give customers and their families an experience that goes beyond shopping for a TV.
“You’ve got to have a good price but you’ve also got to present some compelling reasons for why someone should buy from you,” says Jon Abt, who says sales were up about 15 percent from the 2016 holiday season.
Independent retailers who’ve had a successful holiday season recognize that there are strengths in not being huge. They’re able to change pricing and other strategies quickly. They can offer customers more personal service and a warmer atmosphere. And they’re able to take advantage of social media tools designed for smaller companies, including inexpensive ads on Facebook.
How successful the season was for the retail industry as a whole won’t be known until estimates from market researchers like ShopperTrak and a tally from the Commerce Department arrive in January. And after-Christmas business, when consumers are redeeming gift cards and looking for clearance sale bargains, can make the difference. But individual retailers including small and independent merchants already have a sense of how they’ve done, and what worked for them.
Bekka Palmer’s baskets, tote bags and jewelry sold better than she expected because she made sure she got publicity. Palmer, owner of the online retailer Closed Mondays, met an editor of Domino, a magazine and website that publishes a holiday gift guide, and that bit of networking led to several of her creations being featured on Domino. She also approached New York magazine and a website called Design Milk and got mentions.
People browsing the online gift guides and then deciding to buy gave Palmer nearly a quarter of her sales from mid-November until mid-December, when she processed her last orders before Christmas.
“I was so much busier than I was last year,” says Palmer, who lives and runs her business in Brooklyn, New York.
Palmer also sold at pop-up markets where shoppers gave her feedback.
“Many of our customers this year were specifically looking for things made in the U.S.A.,” she says.