Why Shop Small?
Over the past two years of being in business, Keith and I have enjoyed getting to know our customers and sharing our story. We have been warmly and enthusiastically accepted by our community. We are still learning and embracing all that make up retail sales. It’s very different from the world we came from but it is a challenging, ever changing environment that has so many advantages.
One of the interesting aspects of the retail business is the power of on-line sales. I completely understand the joys of shopping from your PJs while sipping coffee and watching a morning news program. It’s hard to compete with that scenario. What’s surprising, however, is the number of customers who monopolizes our staff’s time by trying on gear and boots with the intent of getting sized perfectly at the shop, but purchasing the products on-line. We have even had several customers who have overtly stated “can you size me in some shoes, because I want to buy them off of Amazon and I don’t know my size.”
No, really, I’m sorry, what did you say?
After practicing my 10 second breathing technique, I realize that this is not a fault of the customer (well maybe a little), but a fault in the system. Simply put, there is a lack of understanding regarding the importance of small businesses and the impact we have on the local community.
So, how did we get to this point?
Can we blame it on millennials? Everything else is blamed on them so maybe this is their doing!
I believe it has more to do with the fact that Fredericksburg has not had a specialty outdoor store in over a decade. Without a store to bond with customers turned to other avenues for their gear or technical apparel.
There were also national trends that affected how people shopped for their gear. In the early 2000’s the expansion of the “big box” stores nearly destroyed family owned and operated specialty outdoor stores. This was compounded by the advent of on-line shopping. Customers grew accustomed to focus solely on price (trained by the big box method of volume sales), not value, and the “mom and pop” shops simply could not compete. Sadly, while small businesses were closing their doors, large, faceless corporations were securing their positions in the marketplace.
Why did I leave my job to open one of those destined to fail “mom and pop” shops!
Calm down April (internal dialogue), the good news is that across the United States, we are beginning to see a reversal. People are realizing that money spent locally stays within the community. We are proudly part of that story!
It’s easy when you think about it. Can you name one executive of the “big box” outdoor store or Amazon (other than Jeff Bezos)? Do you want your dollars supporting the growing economy of the Northwest? By shopping local, your funds stay within the community where they are re-injected back into your schools, parks, restaurants, etc. Small local businesses are owned and operated by your friends and neighbors (like me and Keith); they employ those living within your community (like Meegana, Billy, Thomas, and Julia). If small businesses thrive and grow, more employees are required thereby generating more taxable dollars for the community and more income to be spent locally. These funds then support the growth of the aggregate community.
Despite what you’ve been told, bigger is not always better. There is a common misperception that the larger companies can provide the same goods at a discounted price. This is not the case and, in fact, we have had multiple customers state that they were being price gouged on certain items by the “big box.” The majority of the prices are not set by the individual companies, but are set by the vendors through the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). Yes, there are certain times of the year when sales occur; however, the majority of small businesses will also recognize these trends and adjust pricing accordingly.
I think that we are living proof that smaller businesses create greater value. Our staff is always willing to take the time to ensure you are outfitted with the appropriate gear and even correct the mistakes made by our competitors, which happens much more often than most realize. We hold community events, establish free meet-up groups, and attempt to be that conduit between idea and activity. Much of this is at our own personal cost; however, it helps to build our base and demonstrates the tie our small business has to the community and our customers.
We recently had a customer tell us that they come to our shop because we make them feel good, we make them feel like they can do anything. This is our goal. We don’t want to show you the unattainable but rather inspire you to reach a milestone, try something new, or just enjoy the outdoors. We are pushing a healthy, outdoor lifestyle.
Yes, you have to wear flannel, and yes, you should grow a beard.
But…if you don’t we will still accept you because outdoor people come in all shapes and sizes.
I am pretty sure Amazon can’t do all that!
Think about it…and while you do #shop small!