How Small Business Can Show Up The Big Kids

You’re going to have a hard time surviving against the big box stores if you don’t get smart and go after those guys. There are at least 5 ways to beat ‘em without having to fight them on price.

It’s amazing how many small retailers don’t get it. After all, there’s no way they will be able to compete on price with the Wal-Mart’s and Amazons of the world. To win, they have to compete on experience.

A great example of how a specialty retail store wins is Tinker Toys of Abilene, Texas. This small chain of four stores is owned and operated by a fiery entrepreneur, Betsy Barton. When you walk into Tinker Toys, you don’t expect great deals on the clearance rack (there is no clearance rack.) But what you will get is an awesome experience.

Here are 5 things that Tinker Toys teaches about how to compete on something besides price:

1. Offer Incentives

Kid in toy store-2When you walk thru the Tinker Toys door, there is always someone there with a big smile. Before you know it, you have a toy shoved into your hands. It’s a small store but with plenty of room to play. Which makes for a virtual playground. And kids love it. Tinker Toys is constantly holding sidewalk sales, outdoor festivals and fundraisers to get the community involved.

2. It’s All About Value

Tinker Toys doesn’t shy away from their higher prices because they make up for them by providing an awesome experience. Regulars get a newsletter with frequent specials, as well as special deals offered on social media. They put the customer experience above everything else.

3. Differentiate

The big box stores aren’t going to take chances on new and different products. So the smaller stores get the first crack at the really cool stuff. And the cool stuff is what their customers look for. Often these odditiesNEW YORK, NY - JULY 14: Children play on the "Big Piano," made famous by the movie Big, in FAO Schwarz toy store on July 14, 2015 in New York City. The famed toy store will close it's doors for good July 15, and it's its owner, Toys "R"Us, is said to be looking for another location after rent at its current address was deemed too high. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images) become their best sellers. Nowadays, Tinker Toys is one of the first stores to be involved in new product testing, so they get the first shot at all the new ideas.

4. Go Online

Tinker Toys may be small by comparison, but they have a great catalog and website to go along with that great in-store experience. We all know that online shopping is going nowhere but up, so offering this alternative for shopping will definitely be a strong key to Tinker Toys’ future success.

5. Be Social

Tinker Toys does a super job of attracting and retaining loyal, local customers. That fun newsletter, on-going website updates, social media exposure and an owner who is known by everyone in Abilene and throughout the toy industry keeps their fans constantly engaged. All retail businesses need to be active on social media.

For retailers to compete with the big box stores is always a daunting task. It just takes hard work and there’s no short cut to success. Betsy Barton is one of the hardest workers in the toy business, but if you watch her closely, you’ll never know she’s working hard. She looks like she’s simply having a great time, doing what she really loves. Which she is.




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