What prompted this post was a local pastry shop that I go to when I get a chance (and when my waistline permits) that has some wonderful pastries. But they also have the coffee that sits on the warmers for extended periods of time and possibly the cheapest disposable cups I had ever seen. So I’ve never gotten the coffee because I assumed the coffee was as bad as the cups.
Then they shared their coffee philosophy with me and how it matches their pastry philosophy. My suggestion to them was to improve their cups to a better grade and change the color of the lids. The result? Coffee sales are way up. They also bought air pots which keep the coffee at an ideal temperature rather than having it sit on the warmer and get that burned taste. I love great coffee. Yes, even as much as I love great beer.
I got to spend time with another business that has a core product that is absolutely fantastic but they were noticing a huge drop in sales after a chain store selling inferior products was opened near them. Looking around it was clear to me why sales had dropped once people had a choice.
The mouth was speaking about this core product’s quality and their reputation was in line with the product itself, but the environment indicated that they had no idea that there was a paint store within a block of theirs. So my advice was two fold - hire someone to change the colors in the store and also go to the hardware store and buy new drop ceiling tiles that didn’t look like a crime scene had happened there.
It’s incredible how many businesses have these drop ceilings and how many of them look like they’ve been in armed conflict. Yet replacing them is easy and relatively inexpensive - I found a price of under $40 for 64 square feet of tiles - and a shiny new ceiling would make the greatest difference to a lot of businesses.
Add some new lenses to the fluorescent lights and the entire operation is going to look brand new.
Yet this isn't something most customers are going to tell you. Yet another business I spoke with just painted their drop ceiling and replaced the burned-out fluorescent tubes with ones that worked. Amazingly, sales went up and customers even remarked how much nicer the place was. It was two cans of paint and five fluorescent tubes.
Funny thing - one of the first blog posts on this site was about lighting in a small business. I’m still cuckoo over seeing a business with burned out bulbs.
Small businesses still have the potential advantage when a larger business moves to town, but everything in the store tells a story. Big chain operations have the advantage of being a great place to shop for whatever reason but they also make sure that the stores are clean and well lighted. They know that every aspect of how they tell the story is what the customer walks away with.
For example, in many cases you can compare prices of things Walmart sells with prices of competitors and Walmart’s are higher. Business Insider knows this. And even the DMV is a gem of service compared with many Walmart stores.
It’s absolutely possible for a local retailer to compete with chain stores when they come to town but you have to focus on your strengths - customer service and faster access to goods and services - and make sure that every part of the business tells the same story. And, perhaps, offer a really great cup of coffee in cups that match that product.
Amazon links in this article are affiliate links to products on Amazon.