Cutthroat prices, huge inventory, massive advertising bucks — a small retailer is bound to feel like David going up against Goliath when competing with the big chains. But, like David, you can win the battle. The trick is to fight it on your ground, not theirs.


Leverage localness.

We are located in South Florida and every winter we see our chain store branches offering cold weather gear, even though it’s rarely needed in our climate. Large national chains are by their nature generic; it’s virtually impossible for them to offer any local flavor. You, on the other hand, can tailor your merchandise mix to the specific tastes and needs of the people in your area.


Stress quality and value.

There’s no way you can beat the prices of your big box competition. So go the opposite route and offer products that are made well and will serve a customer’s needs for years. They cost more, but give greater value than an item that fails within a few months of purchase.


Promote uniqueness.

Seek out products from smaller manufacturers that won’t be found in big box stores because they can’t meet such large orders. Customers love having alternatives to the mass-produced merchandise that’s the same from one chain to the next.


Help customers find you in local online searches.

There’s no way you can top the search engine results page for nationwide searches. But you can use local SEO strategies successfully. They are actually weighted in your favor, because Google will penalize any business that sets up multiple website pages for every one of its locations.

  • Create a Google Business page (or check the one you already have for completeness and accuracy)
  • Make sure your location appears on every page of your website
  • Direct inbound traffic from search engines to a location-centric landing page on your website (your address, phone number, store hours, location map)
  • Display links to other local businesses and organizations on your website


Connect with the community.

Build customer awareness and loyalty by getting involved with them.

  • Host or participate in community events
  • Contribute to local charities
  • Sponsor a local sports team
  • Form strategic partnerships with complementary local businesses
  • Invite local social media influencers to visit your store and sample your merchandise


Deliver superior customer service.

You have the advantage of one-on-one relationships with your customers, which no big box store can equal. Provide a memorable experience by making them feel recognized, comfortable and cared for where they shop.


Big stores will always be big players on the retail scene. But small retailers can reach local customers on a level above and beyond what national chains can do. Those are the ones that will survive and thrive.