Although the holiday shopping season is drawing to a close, many consumers are busier than ever, scrambling to buy last-minute gifts and hunting in stores for year-end discounts. Because of the convenience and ubiquity of big-box retailers, it should come as no surprise that these chain stores are usually the ones profiting from late-season holiday purchases.
While small businesses may have enjoyed a spike in sales around Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, they usually don't experience the same surge as large retailers do toward the end of the season. Michael Vivio, president of coupon distributor Valpak, said this is because bigger businesses are simply much more visible than local shops.
"Every day, consumers are exposed to flashy advertisements, over-the-top promotions, high-cost marketing campaigns and seemingly low prices that drive store traffic," Vivio told Business News Daily. "In many ways, consumers are programmed to believe big-box retailers will better suit their needs. The reality is, great deals are available at both large and small businesses."
Small business owners know that an uptick in year-end sales can mean a strong start in the New Year, but some small stores still struggle to draw customers away from their larger competitors. Vivio shared four common misconceptions about small businesses that may be steering consumers toward the "big guys." [How Twitter Affects Holiday Shopping]
Myth #1: Small businesses are too expensive. Although coupons for big retailers are much more common, customers can still find good deals at small shops. Local businesses work hard to keep their prices competitive, and while costs may be slightly higher than at stores like Target or Walmart, consumers are still willing to pay a little extra for a really great product. Vivio noted that Valpak partners with 55,000 businesses to create and distribute coupons, and nearly all of them are for small businesses.
Myth #2: You'll find better gifts at big-box retailers. Small businesses may not all carry the popular "it" toys and electronics of the season. But if consumers are looking for thoughtful, sentimental gifts, they are more likely to find unique and special items at small businesses than anywhere else, Vivio said.
Myth #3: Smaller stores aren't as knowledgeable or efficient with customer service. Small business owners are passionately linked to the success of their businesses, which means they are experts on the products they create and sell, Vivio said. When the owner speaks with consumers one-on-one, he or she can ask for feedback in a personalized, tangible way that's hard to find in bigger stores. These types of conversations allow small businesses to attract and retain consumers, and in the end, help make better business decisions in the future.
Myth #4: Small businesses don't have enough inventory. Some consumers feel that a small business might lack sufficient inventory to support higher holiday season demands. However, Vivio said that product needs are based on volume, and more often than not, smaller retailers are more than equipped with the necessary products consumers require. This especially rings true for small businesses that focus on a specific, niche area.
If you want to dispel these myths and give consumers a reason to shop your store as the year wraps up, Vivio advised working harder to better understand your customers and their needs.
"Smaller businesses are often structured to be nimble, a huge benefit over larger retailers," he said. "Keep a close eye on trends in the marketplace [and] unmet problems larger retailers face with consumers. Take this knowledge and focus more on creating a better in-store experience that is impactful, showcases quality product and will better serve the customer."