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...
Combo-at-Youngs-Plant-Farm

December 12, 2017

How to Produce Stunning Combination Containers

It’s easy to produce your own attention-grabbing combos, if you follow this advice from a master combination designer.

Read More
SunStanding-New-Guinea-Impatiens-Dummen-Orange-feature

December 7, 2017

Growing Tips From a Pro for SunStanding New Guinea Impatiens

SunStanding New Guinea impatiens hybrids spruce up the landscape with vibrant blooms that explode with color in both sun and shade areas, and they hold up well in heat and humidity.

Read More
Japan-Airlines-princettia

December 7, 2017

Suntory Pairs Princettia with Several Breast Cancer Awareness Promotions

Suntory Flowers is partnering with several major brands to support breast cancer awareness and fundraising, using its bright-pink Princettia euphorbias as the ideal plant for Pink Ribbon promotions.

Read More
Latest Stories
Combo-at-Youngs-Plant-Farm

December 12, 2017

How to Produce Stunning Combination Containers

It’s easy to produce your own attention-grabbing combos, if you follow this advice from a master combination designer.

Read More
SunStanding-New-Guinea-Impatiens-Dummen-Orange-feature

December 7, 2017

Growing Tips From a Pro for SunStanding New Guinea Impa…

SunStanding New Guinea impatiens hybrids spruce up the landscape with vibrant blooms that explode with color in both sun and shade areas, and they hold up well in heat and humidity.

Read More
Japan-Airlines-princettia

December 7, 2017

Suntory Pairs Princettia with Several Breast Cancer Awa…

Suntory Flowers is partnering with several major brands to support breast cancer awareness and fundraising, using its bright-pink Princettia euphorbias as the ideal plant for Pink Ribbon promotions.

Read More
Brandon-Coker-and-John-Ruter-University-of-Georgia

December 3, 2017

Great Plants for 2018 That Stand Up to Heat and Humidit…

In his latest column, Allan Armitage credits trial managers at the University of Georgia, who have come up with an extensive list of plants that continually outperform others throughout the season.

Read More
Veronicastrum

December 1, 2017

Kelly Norris On How You Can Sell a New Landscape, With …

In his latest column, Kelly Norris says programs like Plant Select deliberately set out to change the market demand for a different palette of plants. Their success should serve as an example for how to authentically connect the gardening experience of a particular region with the supply chain.

Read More
MSU-Annual-Trial-Garden

November 29, 2017

2017 Michigan State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.

Read More
MOBOT-Trial-Gardens

November 27, 2017

2017 Missouri Botanical Garden Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO.

Read More
ISU-Trial-Beds

November 26, 2017

2017 Iowa State University/Reiman Gardens Field Trials …

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Iowa State University/Reiman Gardens in Ames, IA.

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses 2017 Container Trials

November 25, 2017

2017 Lucas Greenhouses Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results from Lucas Greenhouses in Monroeville, NJ.

Read More
Upper-garden_Mast-Young

November 24, 2017

2017 Mast Young Plants Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results from Mast Young Plants in Grand Rapids, MI.

Read More
Pentas-Graffitti-Lipstick

November 23, 2017

2017 Dallas Arboretum Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Dallas Arboretum in Dallas, TX.

Read More
Pentas-Lucky-Star-Red

November 22, 2017

2017 Louisiana State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results Louisiana State University in Hammond, LA.

Read More
Echeveria-First-Lady

November 21, 2017

2017 D.S. Cole Growers Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, NH.

Read More
Millet-Copper-Prince

November 20, 2017

2017 Colorado State University Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO.

Read More
Achillea-Ritzy-Ruby

November 19, 2017

2017 Green Leaf Plants Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Green Leaf Plants in Lancaster, PA.

Read More
Ball-Bed-with-Midnight-Snack-tomato_Cornell

November 18, 2017

2017 Cornell University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2017 field trials results for Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

Read More
Pepper Cayenne ‘Red Ember’ (Johnny’s Selected Seeds)

November 17, 2017

Presenting All-America Selections’ Latest Round of Awar…

All-America Selections has announced the latest round of its award-winning varieties, each of which was trialed throughout North America by professional, independent, volunteer judges.

Read More
Eason-New-Calibrachoa-Hi-Graft

November 14, 2017

Eason Horticultural Resources Introduces New Decorative…

Created by Hishtil Nursery in Israel, the new decorative forms of calibrachoa feature an 8- to 12-inch stem and come in four colors of calibrachoa blooms on top.

Read More