The Grapevine

Making the Most of Your Small-Retailer Advantage

June 21st, 2016

It may seem that the cards are stacked against you as a small, independent retail shop – there are things that the big national chains do that you simply can’t match. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons for them to look at you in envy, too. [level-members]

Most of what you can do better than the big brands boils down to the personal touch. If you’re not making the most of that, you’re going to have an uphill battle to stay competitive.

One way to do that is to hire smart, hire for the long-haul, and pay well enough to maintain a consistent public face. If you’re the only one in the shop, that’s great. But think about who fills in for you on your day off or during vacations or emergencies. (And smart staffing isn’t just about pay. Good employees want to feel they’re trusted and have the ability to make decisions on their own. Be sure you’re encouraging your staff to put the customer first and discuss with you later – within predefined limits, perhaps.)

You also want to do all you can to build your shop around a passion or belief. We’ve talked about this too many times to count: forget selling Yellow Tail at the lowest price. That’s a tough game to play without significant volume. Instead carve out your niche as a specialist with a particular point of view. Old World wines. Exciting new wine regions, wine and food pairing. Sure, you probably do a little of all of that, but if you become known for something interesting, it creates a halo effect and helps create a strong perception of your shop in the market. (The same logic applies to Chevrolet selling Corvettes – it’s not a high volume car. But its sex appeal helps the brand overall.)

Finally, never forget that what happens outside the shop door is at least as important as what happens inside your shop. You have to create interest and excitement with you email marketing, your social media posts, and on your website. It can’t be sell, sell, sell all the time. It has to be about things that people love about wine – or that entertain them. If they’re excited and enthused about stopping by the shop, you’re well on your way to making the big national brands green with envy.