Beat Online Sellers With Your Strengths
Although the independent bookstore category has taken a big hit in the past
two decades due to online retail
giants, some independent bookstores are still thriving. According to a recent column by USA
Today small business columnist
Rhonda Abrams, there are lessons in that category for all independent retailers on how to
survive and thrive against online
competition. What you can’t do
is pretend that e-commerce isn’t
there or hope it is just going to
go away. It isn’t.
Play to brick-and-mortar’s
many strengths. What has
worked for booksellers in many
ways will work for pet retailers.
Local is good. There is a growing trend toward shopping local—and for locally made goods.
Consumers prefer to be able to
shop locally, and people also
want to see their own downtown
thriving and prefer to be loyal to
local businesses. Show customers
how much you help make the
community a success.
What do you offer that online
retailers don’t? People can touch
and see merchandise in your
store. Give pride of place to toys,
collars, clothes—anything that
a customer will want to be able
to pick up and touch. Also, pet
owners love to talk about their animals—encourage in-store chats.
Share your pet knowledge
with your customers—whether it
is about good nutrition or behavioral issues. The more they see
you as a source of knowledge, the
more they will come to your store.
Know the names of good trainers
or walkers in your area that you
can recommend. Whether or not
it leads to an immediate sale, it is
likely to pay off down the line.
Be a part of your community.
Partner with local shelters or have
your store involved in events in
town. Partner with your suppliers
too. This isn’t a one-way street—
even in the age of the smartphone,
most people are going to first find
out about a new product when
they happen upon it in your store.
Suppliers need you and may well
be able to help you with promotional events.
Don’t rely on the same-old,
same-old that has worked in the
past. Keep up-to-date on what
the online “enemy” is doing. Follow marketing trends in retail—
what works for other categories
may well have lessons in the pet
business, too. Don’t hide away
in your store—know what’s going on in your community. Are
there more and more retired
people? An influx of millennials?
New developments with a lot of
school-age children? Keep your
product offerings relevant to
your customer base. What works
in one town is not necessarily the
secret to success in a neighboring
SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
ARE FEELING BLUE
A recent survey by Bank of
America found just 29 percent
of small business owners think
the national economy will im-
prove over the next 12 months,
compared to 48 percent who
thought it would improve this
time last year. Business owners
are slightly more confident in
their local economy, which 38
percent see improving over the
next year. The No. 1 concern: 79
percent list the effectiveness of
U.S. government leaders. Taxes
and health care will decide the
small business vote. Just 51 per-
cent expect revenue to increase
in the next year (down from 63
percent a year ago), and only 22
percent have plans to hire more
employees this year (down from
46 percent a year ago).
NO CREDIT CARD
A BIG BILL
The bill is starting to
come due for retailers
who didn’t swap to the new credit card
readers by the deadline last October.
The Wall Street Journal reports that
chargebacks among small- and medi-um-size merchants rose 15 percent in
the fourth quarter. Strawhecker, a payments consulting firm, said that figure
is rising because the fourth quarter only
had a few weeks under the new rules.
Since October, merchants who didn’t
swap to the new readers for cards with
an electronic chip are on the hook for
fraudulent activity in their stores.
According to one survey, only 22
percent have installed readers that can
process the chip-enabled cards. The
main complaints are the cost of new
readers and the slower time for processing each transaction.