retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

eMarketer has a story about a new study from AYTM Market Research indicating that when US consumers choose to do business with small companies instead of big ones, there are two major reasons. According to the study, 56.2 percent of the time it is to support the local economy, and 52.7 percent of the time it is because of personal service. Almost 30 percent of the time, it is because of having higher quality items; 27 percent of time, it is because of lower prices.

And, the story continues, "An August 2013 study by Web.com and Toluna found similar results. The factor that US consumers considered the most important when choosing small businesses over other types of businesses was customer service (86% of respondents). Personalized and intimate experiences as well as small businesses’ understanding of customers’ needs were also popular, each cited by 84%."

These numbers are not surprising. In fact, it would only be a shock if people preferred small business for other reasons. But the facts are good to keep in mind, especially when they are illustrated by actual experience.

Last weekend, Mrs. Content Guy and I were in Manhattan Beach, California, and she suddenly found herself in need of a shoemaker. (Nothing major … just a little fix to make her shoes more comfortable.) We actually found on on the main street there, and discovered in chatting with the owner that his grandfather started the business 80 years ago. They've been saved from rent increases by owning their location, and they offer not just the kind of shoemaking skills that can be hard to find in our disposable economy, but also great service. They helped Mrs. Content Guy out in about two minutes, and I also noticed a sign saying that if customers have a hard time parking (Manhattan Beach can be a pain!), they should just give the store a call, and then toot their horns when they arrive so that the owner can come out and take care of them.

That's pretty cool. While the folks in this shoe repair shop might not think of themselves as "customer-centric," that's exactly what they are - they are offering a hard-to-find, personalized service that remains necessary, and doing everything they can to make the shopper's life easier. And when you go in, you feel good about the experience.

It was an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: