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...
Miscanthus-Bandwidth EmeraldCoastGrowers

May 11, 2018

New Sterile Ornamental Grasses One Solution to Grass Invasion

Aggressive grass species can turn gardeners off to using ornamental grasses. Less fertile alternatives offer options for keeping grasses from taking over the garden.

Read More

May 10, 2018

Beekenkamp Plants Acquires Sunny Osteospermum Breeding Program

Beekenkamp took over all Sunny Holland sales activities in 2017, and now has ownership of the company’s entire breeding program.

Read More
Stokesia-Divinity-1-feature

May 6, 2018

Growing Tips From an Expert for Stokesia ‘Divinity’

'Divinity’ has large, white flowers that open with a hint of yellow in the center and then mature to a pure, long-lasting white.

Read More
Latest Stories
Miscanthus-Bandwidth EmeraldCoastGrowers

May 11, 2018

New Sterile Ornamental Grasses One Solution to Grass In…

Aggressive grass species can turn gardeners off to using ornamental grasses. Less fertile alternatives offer options for keeping grasses from taking over the garden.

Read More

May 10, 2018

Beekenkamp Plants Acquires Sunny Osteospermum Breeding …

Beekenkamp took over all Sunny Holland sales activities in 2017, and now has ownership of the company’s entire breeding program.

Read More
Stokesia-Divinity-1-feature

May 6, 2018

Growing Tips From an Expert for Stokesia ‘Divinit…

'Divinity’ has large, white flowers that open with a hint of yellow in the center and then mature to a pure, long-lasting white.

Read More
Panicum-Northwind-feature

May 4, 2018

Allan Armitage: Three Ways to Market Grasses as Great O…

I don’t expect my friends to know the difference between switchgrass and grama grass, yet I always try to do my best to enhance the visibility of these grasses.

Read More
Bailey-Nurseries-Tree-Art-at-US-Capitol

May 1, 2018

Bailey Nurseries Fills U.S. Capitol Front Lawn With Tre…

A 150-foot tree art installation was constructed on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building to promote the planting of trees in an effort to combat climate, change while creating meaningful experiences that bring nature into people’s every day lives.

Read More
Carex-and-Onoclea

April 28, 2018

Kelly Norris: Why the Plant Experience Really Matters W…

For Millennials and other new gardeners, the features of plants such as natives aren’t terribly important. It's the benefits that are paramount.

Read More
Zinfin-Doll-Hydrangea

April 25, 2018

March Was a Month of Awards for Spring Meadow Nursery, …

After taking home a best new variety award at a Belgian horticulture event, Proven Winners held its always-popular Shrub Madness tournament to coincide with the annual NCAA Championship.

Read More

April 25, 2018

Armitage Scholar’s Final Thoughts on the People a…

"This trip solidified my desire to breed plants. Every time I was able to have a discussion about plant traits, genetics, and germplasm, I felt a thrill of excitement."

Read More
Gomphrena Truffula Pink (Proven Winners)

April 24, 2018

Armitage Talks Favorites From Danziger and Proven Winne…

From annuals that look like they came out of a Dr. Seuss book to breeding marvels in perennials and shrubs, the visits to Danziger and Proven Winners at California Spring Trials were exciting, to be sure. Here are some of Dr. A's favorites.

Read More

April 24, 2018

Proven Winners Reveals Marketing Efforts for 2018-2019 …

For the first time, the brand has generated one billion consumer impressions, and plans to keep that momentum going with a number of ambitious programs.

Read More

April 24, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Plant Intros from Pr…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Proven Winners and Danziger.

Read More

April 20, 2018

California Dreaming Takes on a Whole New Meaning at CAS…

At California Spring Trials 2018, the Greenhouse Grower team witnessed the revitalization of a company, plus some awesome merchandising displays, and efforts toward automation.

Read More

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bai…

From an exciting perennial to a new white begonia, Allan Armitage says these showstoppers deserve recognition.

Read More
GG-and-Benary-Team

April 19, 2018

Spring Trials Rookie Inspired by Connections

The Allan Armitage Scholarship recipient has added a number of industry connections during his time at California Spring Trials, and discusses what that means to him and his career.

Read More
Benary 2018

April 18, 2018

At CAST 2018, Sakata Captures Consumer Attention Spans,…

More than halfway through the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team had a busy but fantastic day seeing dozens of our friends at American Takii and Benary, and spending time talking about the industry's past and its bright future.

Read More

April 18, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Varieties to Watch F…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from American Takii, Hilverdakooijj, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Sakata Ornamentals, and Ernst Benary of America.

Read More

April 18, 2018

How the Horticulture Industry’s Past Shaped Its P…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says the stories of plant origins help ground our industry to the people and places that have changed us.

Read More