Independent Retailers Beat The Boxes On Service, Even In The Shoe Industry

We have discussed ad nauseam the battle between box stores and independent garden centers. For the small operator — growers or retailers — the box store is like Goliath. For the garden decorator, the box is all she needs. The true gardener visits both, but only buys plants at the box if she spies an amazing value.

The successful independent retailer doesn’t even see the boxes anymore. For them, the box stores are simply part of the landscape and independents adapt. Those who have adapted are doing just fine, thank you.

Box Stores In Other Industries

Is it just the gardening industry that does such battles? Heck, no! The local hardware, the small bookstore, independent theaters and Grandma’s fabric shop all face the same problems, and while there are surely fewer of them, such retailers are still represented in our communities.

I recently had firsthand involvement with a different David and Goliath experience. My wife needed a pair of running shoes for her newfound fitness excursion. Off we went to Academy Sports — the Lowes’ of sporting goods stores — where every kind of shoe, from every brand name, was stacked box upon box in each shoe section. We thought, “How difficult is it to get a pair of shoes?” Unless you are a bona fide track athlete or marathon runner, if the shoe fits, buy it.

We finally found the foot-measuring doodad, and off we went to scour the shoe selection. Of course, it wasn’t quite that simple. Susan wanted ASICS, a brand she had worn before. After inspection of seemingly hundreds of boxes, we could not find one pair of ASICS in her size. We checked one notable brand after the other but none was particularly comfortable. Finally, we just hauled down boxes of the right size, brand be damned, and ended up with something reasonably appropriate.

To say there weren’t any salespeople would not quite be true. To say there were not any knowledgeable salespeople would. However, like all lazy people, we put up with the chaos because the store was there and the price was likely cheaper.

Superior Service At Small Stores

Athens, Ga., is a college town with lots of runners, so there still are people who want the best for their feet. On the way home, we remembered a small running store near our favorite restaurant, and since I wanted to do everything possible to keep my good wife’s feet in running order, we said, “What the heck, it can’t be any worse.”

Neither of us had ever visited the Athens Running Store. It was tiny compared to the box, but as soon as we talked to an employee, it became obvious these people knew what they were doing.

As with many small retail shops, the owner was there and took care of Susan, chatting with her and measuring her feet properly. That seemed reasonable, but then he asked her to step on a machine that measured her instep, arches and weight distribution. He said it was simply a tool to complement his measurements, and he was fairly confident in a proper shoe choice.

The service just kept getting better. He put her on a treadmill hooked up to a monitor and determined the tendency of her feet to turn in or out as she walked. This definitely was not Academy Sports. He found a shoe that felt good and will likely keep her feet happy.

Lessons For Small Operators

Not only did Susan get a shoe that fit properly, but it was less expensive than the one she had purchased at the box store. Who would have thought?
Perhaps all husbands know what came next. “Allan, why don’t you get a pair, too?” My shoes (purchased at the box store) were fine. They were relatively new, but I was so impressed with the service, I could hardly wait for my turn. It felt like a thorough dental checkup but without the pain. We both walked out with new shoes on our feet, and I realized this experience is not much different from our industry.

The parallels were obvious: good people make a difference. What did the Athens Running Company gain from our visit? It sold two pairs of shoes. It has two pleased customers extolling their name all over town, as well as a rave review in a national column. Score: David 3, Goliath 0.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

October 17, 2017

14 New Shrubs With Fringe Benefits

What’s popular with shrubs? Consumers want varieties that will give them more return on their investment, in terms of long-lasting blooms and multi-season appeal that lasts from spring until fall and at times stretches into the winter months. Here are 14 new varieties of shrubs and sub-shrubs to consider for your product mix in 2018.

Read More

October 14, 2017

PlantPeddler Hosting Poinsettia Variety Day in December

The event will feature side-by-side comparisons of more than 100 commercial and pre-released varieties from seven breeders.

Read More

October 10, 2017

Coastal Callas Is a Dream Fulfilled for Founder Adrian Espinoza

Adrian Espinoza and his family founded Rancho Espinoza Inc. and Coastal Callas in California seven years ago with a mission and purpose to provide consistent quality and reliable supply of calla lilies to the marketplace.

Read More
Latest Stories

October 17, 2017

14 New Shrubs With Fringe Benefits

What’s popular with shrubs? Consumers want varieties that will give them more return on their investment, in terms of long-lasting blooms and multi-season appeal that lasts from spring until fall and at times stretches into the winter months. Here are 14 new varieties of shrubs and sub-shrubs to consider for your product mix in 2018.

Read More

October 14, 2017

PlantPeddler Hosting Poinsettia Variety Day in December

The event will feature side-by-side comparisons of more than 100 commercial and pre-released varieties from seven breeders.

Read More

October 10, 2017

Coastal Callas Is a Dream Fulfilled for Founder Adrian …

Adrian Espinoza and his family founded Rancho Espinoza Inc. and Coastal Callas in California seven years ago with a mission and purpose to provide consistent quality and reliable supply of calla lilies to the marketplace.

Read More
Azalea Encore Autumn Bonfire

October 4, 2017

Big Changes on the Horizon for Woody Ornamentals

The future looks bright for the woody ornamentals market, with exciting new varieties in the pipeline that will offer greater disease resistance, cold hardiness, bloom capacity, and more.

Read More

October 3, 2017

25 New Blooming Potted Plants for Luxury Sales

Consider these new blooming potted plant varieties that offer full blooms, unique foliage, and a touch of extravagance and easy maintenance for time-strapped customers who want to pamper themselves.

Read More
Hydrangea 'Berry White' (Bailey Nurseries)

October 2, 2017

Woody Ornamentals Market Set for Growth

The woody ornamentals market is looking up. Now, out-of-the box thinking about product offerings and consumer education will keep things moving in the right direction.

Read More

September 27, 2017

New Mum Intros From California Spring Trials 2017

For fall gardening product selection, you can't go wrong with offering mums. Here are a few of the new introductions that we saw at California Spring Trials 2017 that will be making their retail debut in 2018.

Read More
Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer BloomStruck’ (Bailey Nurseries)

September 26, 2017

Bailey Nurseries Enhances Product Development Program, …

Plant Introductions, which Bailey purchased almost three years ago, is being rebranded as Bailey Innovations, an entity that will breed and trial new varieties in Georgia.

Read More
Green Fuse Lupine Staircase Pink

September 24, 2017

How to Effectively Grow Staircase Lupine

The Staircase Lupine series, part of Green Fuse Botanicals’ First Light Perennials collection, has the potential to put on a great display with solid and bicolor hues.

Read More
Terra Nova 2018 Catalog

September 23, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries’ Latest Plant Catalog is Now Avail…

The new 2017-2018 plant catalog, which features hundreds of varieties, series, and collections from Terra Nova Nurseries, pays homage to the company’s 25th anniversary.

Read More
Armitage GWA Buffalo Tour 5

September 21, 2017

Tour of Buffalo Gardens Reveals Hidden Gems And Communi…

This past August, Allan Armitage joined the Association for Garden Communicators on a tour of Buffalo. It was a reminder that that we can make a difference in neighborhoods, in cities, and in people’s lives.

Read More
Suntory Grandessa argyranthemum - feature

September 18, 2017

Breeders Open Availability for Unrooted Cuttings; Here&…

With new avenues for buying young plants for vegetative production, growers should have an easier time finding availability and receiving shipments of unrooted cuttings for the coming seasons.

Read More
Ball, Tagawa Succulents Partnership

September 14, 2017

Ball Seed to Partner With Tagawa Greenhouses on New Suc…

The new program includes in-demand retail products that are popular with younger shoppers, allowing growers to easily build a comprehensive succulent program and stay on-trend in the marketplace.

Read More
Strait-Laced Elderberry

September 10, 2017

Check Out the Top Varieties On Display at Farwest 2017

A panel of plant experts, along with show attendees, selected their favorite offerings during the Farwest 2017 New Varieties Showcase.

Read More

September 5, 2017

Hort Couture Announces New Propagation and Broker Partn…

The new grower-propagator partners are deeply vested in the independent garden center channel with propagation expertise, as well as finished production focused on the independent grower.

Read More
Helianthus Sunfinity (Syngenta Flowers)

September 3, 2017

Growing Tips for Helianthus Sunflower ‘Sunfinity…

This annual sunflower is a profuse bloomer with strong branching that produces multiple flowers per plant from spring to fall.

Read More
Ball Seed Field Day 2017

September 2, 2017

Highlights from Ball Seed’s Annual Field Day and Landsc…

Attendees of the one-day event had the opportunity to see new plants in up-close-and-personal trials, and engage with speakers and product experts.

Read More
Bidens Popstar (Kientzler)

August 31, 2017

Allan Armitage: Why I’ve Become a Fan of Bidens

The rather boring plant with mundane daisy-yellow flowers has morphed into a vigorous plant carrying colorful flowers that seems to be comfortable in most of the country.

Read More