One of the biggest challenges small to midsize retailers may face comes from large conglomerates. Stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Urban Outfitters and countless others threaten the livelihood of mom and pop shops around the country. However, with some smart marketing and merchandising, local retailers can take a stand for themselves and edge out competition from big corporations.
What do you have that they don't?
When planning out your marketing strategies to beat out big businesses nearby, you must consider what your store offers that your corporately owned competitors don't. Perhaps you have a small, consistent and super-friendly staff of employees manning the store floor. Maybe you sell custom-made apparel or locally created goods. Whatever your strength is, once you isolate it, you can figure out how to move it to the forefront of your business.
Showing what you've got
The next step is to make your specialties apparent to shoppers. This should be both an on- and offline effort. First, find a way to incorporate your goods in your storefront window. For example, if you offer tailor-made dresses, put a few of your favorite on adult or child mannequins at the front of your shop. Don't be afraid to draw attention to their uniqueness with store signs. You can even call out your competition with a message like, "Dresses you won't find at ______!" If that's too confrontational, then simply tout the fact that your goods can't be found anywhere else, and customers will get the message.
Essentially all big businesses have a social media presence, so if your store is lacking in this department, then you may find yourself being swallowed up by the competition. Now is the time to get on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram to reach out to a broader customer base. If this seems overwhelming, consider hiring a social media expert or promoting one of your current employees who is savvy with technology.
Making shoppers feel special
While big box stores may be convenient, they rarely give shoppers that warm and fuzzy feeling that can only come from individual attention. To stay ahead of the game, train your employees to be the best they can be. They must be attentive, friendly and supremely knowledgeable when it comes to the items in display cases and on clothing racks. You can also host various events that big stores wouldn't be able to hold given their size – for example, an in-store "spring party" complete with refreshments (and lots of promotions) is sure to get you attention.