10 ways small businesses can compete with chain shops in the UK

posted on 25/02/2016 11:06:15 by James McAllister

As a small business owner, hopefully you haven’t faced the nightmare of a chain shop opening just next door – but for most small businesses, this has become the reality. With the larger brands producing their own smaller shops – like Tesco Express – just how can you compete? You may not have millions of pounds at your advertising disposal, but there are ways you can combat the dreaded big branded shop moving in. Below you can find our top ten ways to fight back against the big brands… and win.

Do your research

According to the Association of Convenience Stores (The ACS)  a study has found that 55% of the public find it hard to back small businesses because these smaller shops aren’t online – which changes the nature of the word ‘convenience’ store. The study shows that as many as 2 million sole traders and small businesses are missing on business because they have no online presence. According to Shore Capital analyst, the habits of shoppers are changing, we buy a weekly or monthly shop online and then go on to top up things like bread, cheese and milk at the local convenience stores.

Get a website

By responding to the above statistics small businesses should be really trying to get online. With this in mind get yourself a website where you can offer your produce 24/7, if you cannot afford to deliver you can instead offer an option to collect your items in store. Once you are online you can then utilise free means of advertising such as social media where you can connect with the locals, offer discounts and see what other people in your community are responding to.

Utilise your blog

Now you have set up a website and you’re looking through what your community is talking about it’s time to write about things that are happening in your area. Your blog can be a place where you write about your employees, local charity fundraisers and raise awareness of events or project close to the locals’ heart. This is another thing a big branded store can’t offer – they can never truly be a part of the community.

Be personal and personable

When people walk through your shop door make sure you greet them personally, by name if you can. If you don’t know their name take the time to learn it as they come to the check out. Most people enjoy the personal touch and feel special when people remember them. If for example you get to know a customer that has a gluten deficiency you can start stocking gluten free items for them.

Support local causes

From getting to know people to research local causes that are close to people hearts – you can get involved with any local charities by doing somethings as simple as keeping a money box where all proceeds donated go to said cause. Or take it one step further and sponsor a local charity event, as the owner of a small business you can make decisions like sponsoring a local charity event a lot quicker than the bigger brands.

Utilise your size

Being small isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because you are a small shop you get to choose what’s in and what’s not, if you needed to revamp your store or add new inventory and stock you can create this type of turnaround a lot quicker than elsewhere. You can ask your locals what they would like to see more of in your shop – be that a certain brand of produce or a specified craft ale – and cater to their needs thusly.

Loyalty per customer

You can have your own type of loyalty scheme that is suited to each shopper, for example say you know that each week a certain customer buys coffee you can introduce a loyalty scheme crafted to that shopper so that every 6 times they buy coffee from you they get one half price or even free.

Offer value

Another way to compete is to challenge their prices. Go to the newer branded store and see what their price range is – or even look online. From here you can take inventory of your stock and see what deals you can come up with to contend.

Use locally source

If you are in a farming town you can use this to your advantage, the big branded store may not be able to say that all their produce is locally sourced – you can. You can even extend this to bakery goods, if there is a talented baker in the town who like to bake and sell cupcake you can host them in your store – something which the bigger brands would not be able to accept.

Be niche

You have the opportunity to be niche in the way your customer shops, this can be through things as simple as woven baskets instead of the metal clunky ones. To using cardboard boxes to pack shopping in instead of plastic bags. This is both economical and eco-friendly.

As a smaller store you can really focus more directly to your customers’ needs. Be that through being personable, to catering to certain dietary needs of your locals. Being small is not a bad thing at all, when the chain shop moves in you may expect to see your sales revenue drop as people will be curious to try out the newer shop, but take heart in the fact that they’ll be back to their local shop where they can gain a sense of value and quality from your store.

James McAllister

James is an online content creator at Make It Cheaper. Having previously created a variety of content for a number of websites and media outlets, James focuses on making it easy for SME owners to find interesting and engaging content - as well as useful guides and online tools.You can email James at james.mcallister@makeitcheaper.com

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