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Wed, March 20

Column: Take advantage of the Small Business Saturday Spotlight

Question: I have a small retail business and the holiday shopping season is about to begin. Can SCORE give me some suggestions to help my shop stand out from the major chain stores with their seemingly unlimited marketing budgets?

Answer: One way to launch the holiday shopping season is to participate in Small Business Saturday. November 29, 2014 marks the fourth year that American Express OPEN, many Chambers of Commerce across the country and even politicians are supporting and promoting Small Business Saturday. According to the Prescott Daily Courier in a November 9, 2014 article, the Prescott Chamber of Commerce states, "This Small Business Saturday promotion is open to all small businesses, not just chamber members." Neal Snealler, Membership Director for the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, said that, "Although the deadline for the Chamber to have your business listed in the paper has passed, there is still time to be listed in the coupon book. To get your business publicized email neal@prescott.org.

In addition to Small Business Saturday, there are other ways to make your small business visible. Shari Waters, an entrepreneur who worked her way up the retail ranks to shop owner, writes for retail.about.com. Waters advises, "The key to survival is to offer the products and services that your competition does not. Strategies must be implemented to overcome the lower prices and wider selection that large retailers provide."

Waters offers these tips to better position your retail business for competing with the big box stores:

• Don't panic: Occasionally, we can be our own worst enemy. A big competitor is not a reason to consider relocating or closing your doors. First, recognize that you may need to make a positive change in the way you do business. Then, assess whether or not you have the desire to make those changes.

• Do the research: Seek advice from your trade association or consider hiring a consultant to conduct a study of what customers value most and least about your business. Understand your store's competitive edge. One way to be educated about the way your competition does business is by experiencing their customer service first hand. Find out what their shoppers like or dislike about the chain store.

• Dare to be different: Focus on what makes your business unique. Mass merchandisers generally have a little of everything, whereas smaller specialty stores can focus on a narrow but lucrative niche. This can establish your store as the place to go. Smaller retail businesses also have the luxury of creating a comfortable, cozy atmosphere within their store.

• The power of pricing: More price negotiating goes on in your "Mom and Pop" stores than in the big box stores. Bargain shoppers know the independent retailer has the power to negotiate a sale and these customers are more inclined to shop where they feel they set their own prices. Remember, it is all about the customer's perception. Think about using loss leaders as a marketing tool. This can help gain new customers and increase return visits.

• Personal attention: Superb customer service is the biggest intangible asset to the independent business. People like to shop where they feel comfortable and where they feel the owner truly cares about their wants and needs. It is the least expensive change to make in order to take on the larger chain stores.

• Staffing your store: In order to keep your employees from defecting to the competition, treat them fairly. Help your staff become proficient in their respective departments and make sure they are readily available to meet your customers' needs. If your employees can provide this, your customers will have an extra incentive to continue doing business with you.

Ask your SCORE counselor for advice on how to keep pace with changing markets. Don't have a FREE SCORE Mentor? Go to http://northernarizona.score.org/localworkshops. Questions? Call 928-778-7438 email: scoreoffice@scorenaz.org.

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