Big-box retailers are gearing up for a season of fierce competition for the holiday shopper. Chain stores are opening earlier, staying open longer, and cutting prices on loss-leaders to grab the attention, and dollars, of consumers.

Considering the vast resources of mega-stores, how can an independent Boston Metro retailer compete? For answers, we’ve gathered suggestions from FORBES magazine, and we’re sharing ideas and examples of our own!

1. Create an exceptional shopping experience. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to woo customers. Instead, think about the subtle and obvious differences between your own store’s environment and a big-box store. This includes everything from scent, sight and sound to service. Imagine a gift shop that has the inviting scent of spiced cider, along with soft, uplifting music. Add a warm, welcoming environment, a friendly hello, and attractive merchandise artfully arranged on the shelves. Worth going in for a look? You bet.

Customers may go to a big-box store for price, but few enjoy the trip. Harsh lighting, loud noise, mind-boggling clutter, narrow aisles, empty shelves, ransacked merchandise, screaming children and dispirited (or invisible) employees are hallmarks of some big retailers. These are some of the reasons that same-store sales are lackluster for many chains. And when we say “screaming children” we’re not picking on anyone’s parenting; many adults feel like screaming too after a trek from one end of the big-box store to the other.

Consider the example of an independent Midwest retailer who began with one store, and is now making it big. “Evereve” (formerly “Hot Mama”) found a profitable niche in offering fashion to busy moms with kids in tow. Their family-friendly stores have aisles wide enough for strollers. They offer free animal crackers for tykes, along with a play area, plus video game stations for older children, and free sodas for waiting dads. This unique customer experience has propelled a woman’s clothing shop into a profitable chain with over 50 stores in 18 states.

2. Quality merchandise. It’s admittedly difficult for an independent retailer to compete with a big-box store on price. Difficult, but not impossible! Marketing the distinction between your offerings, and your competitors, is critical. Specialty foods retailers and farmer’s markets have been doing well by emphasizing locally-sourced, high-quality goods that often come at a premium price. Retailers of gifts, clothing, household goods and more have found successful niches by selling quality, durable merchandise. Independent merchants must educate their customers about the value of their products.

3. Distinctive branding. Making your store memorable to the consumer includes strong branding. Communicate your brand identity through the use of logos, packaging, your website, emails, signage, and more. A consistent look will make your store recognizable and memorable. Be sure your brand communicates your unique value proposition and makes a favorable first impression.

Again, we’ll use the “Evereve” example. The store began as “Hot Mama” but many consumers falsely assumed it was only a maternity clothing store. The name change is part of a master branding strategy for future growth.

These are just a few examples of how a Boston Metro business can complete with the big chains! Another important consideration is location; your retail store should have good visibility, and good access to parking areas, public transportation stops and pedestrian areas. When choosing a location for your business, please keep in mind that commercial real estate is highly localized. There are varying degrees of vacancy rates, rental costs and commercial property prices in the Boston Metro! This is why the guidance of an experienced commercial real estate broker is so important!

When it comes to finding Boston Metro commercial real estate for your business purposes, there’s no substitute for an experienced commercial real estate broker who understands the market! Whether you are thinking of buying or leasing, we can help you find the ideal property. Please contact us today for expert guidance!

Jay Nuss
Jay Nuss Realty Group, LLC
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