The Good News for Small Retailers Is That Shoppers Love You

consumer goodwill

Small retailers have lots of concerns this holiday season: A shorter than normal holiday shopping period, fallout from the government shutdown affecting consumers’ confidence and spending, and competition from big-box and online retailers with more sophisticated digital marketing tactics.

But there’s some good news that could potentially offset those difficulties: The 2013 Deluxe Annual Holiday Shopping Survey reports that consumers have a lot of goodwill toward small, local businesses and a great willingness to shop there.

More than one-third (35 percent) of consumers say they are going to shop at local, small businesses this year, an increase from the 27 percent who planned to last year. Of those, 57 percent are specifically doing so because they feel it is “important to support local businesses.” In addition to those who already plan to shop at small businesses, the vast majority (95 percent) of respondents say it’s important to support local independent businesses.

Tap Into Consumer Goodwill to Capture Customers

Offer Something They Can’t Get Anywhere Else

Clearly, prices are a concern for holiday shoppers, especially in these tough times. But only 25 percent say “good prices” are the reason they shop at small, local retailers. Instead, 49 percent say “unique merchandise” attracts them to small stores.

Rather than trying to beat Walmart at its own game, focus on finding and displaying unique, hard-to-find items. Play this up in your marketing. Consumers love being able to give unique gifts that suit the recipients’ personalities.

Serve It Up

Of course, service matters, with four in 10 shoppers who plan to buy from small retailers citing “personalized service” as a motivating factor. Start now getting your employees prepared. If you need additional help, tap into your networks of colleagues, friends and existing employees to find qualified workers.

Focus on hiring for attitude, not necessarily aptitude. You can teach someone how to work your cash register, but you can’t teach them to be warm and friendly. Make sure employees are educated on what you sell so they can help customers make choices (and keep them from whipping out their smartphones to look up information and buy online instead).

Tap Into Technology

Consumers increasingly use technology to plan and fulfill their holiday shopping needs, the survey notes. As a result, you need to leverage technology to attract customers and drive sales.

More than three-fourths (78 percent) of survey respondents plan to shop for holiday gifts online in 2013. But the good news is that one in four (28 percent) prefer a small business website. Since many consumers find gift ideas online, make sure your website is optimized for search engines so that it pops up in the first page of search results. (More than half of respondents say they never go past the first two pages of search results when looking for gift ideas online.)

Since many consumers use smartphones to find products or stores when they’re out and about, it’s also crucial to make sure your business is listed on local search directories and that your listing is current and optimized.

Last, but not least, review what people are saying about you on ratings and review sites like Yelp and try to fix any negative viewpoints.

Reward Your Customers

Now is the time to reward your regulars with appreciation gifts. Sure, you could send a card, but most consumers (47 percent) would rather get a discount on a future purchase. Sending an email or direct mail postcard with a discount is a great way to get shoppers headed in early.

Start Now

Just 15 percent of respondents say they’ll actually do most of their shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Instead, more than 40 percent plan to do most of their shopping earlier in November. If your business targets 18 to 34-year-olds, know that they’re the group most likely to do most of their shopping over Thanksgiving weekend (22 percent will do so).

Aiming at parents?

The 35 to 44-year-old group is most likely to wait until the last minute to finish their shopping (19 percent will do so).

Be a Part of Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday (November 30, 2013) taps into consumers’ desire to support small businesses in their communities by helping encourage people to shop at independent stores on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Get involved, join a neighborhood circle and promote and prepare your marketing materials and website for the event.

Shopping Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

9 Reactions
  1. You hit the nail on the head with your comment about wanting unique items. When I have family or friends in town, where do we go to eat? Somewhere that is only where I live and they can’t get where they live. What gifts do I want to give them? Not the same stuff they could buy at the big box retailer in their town, but the unique items from shops they CAN’T find in their town.

    • Robert, +1 to that! I have family members who will travel several hours to visit a unique shop selling unique items. Who’s going to travel 2 hours to buy something at Walmart?


  2. I live just 10 minutes away from the biggest shopping centre in Europe, but I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been there. I prefer shopping in smaller places/businesses with lesser crowds. It’s more personal/intimate.

    In terms of shopping for the holidays (that’s when I have the budget for it), I usually leave things to the last minute to be honest.

  3. One of the coolest things I have seen in terms of “serving it up” and using technology is a local bookstore in Australia. They are using automated drones to deliver books to customers within one hour of their order. I don’t know about you but I still prefer to read hardcovers and if I could get the book delivered to me in an hour I would not only shop local I would pay more. Plus who doesn’t want to see a drone deliver a book? Think about the free publicity!

    Best Regards,

  4. I agree with offering something that you cannot get anywhere else. As you can see, it is hard to get customers to notice you unless you offer something different. It does not even need to be a different product. As long as you know your market well, you can come up with a different angle that you can sell.

  5. You could have both big and small retailers side by side. Every co. started out small. How long time has Small Business Saturday being around?

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