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The Death of Mom & Pop Retailers?

Do you remember when the Sears Catalog was going to destroy all the Mom & Pop Retailers? Yeah, probably not. That was back in the early parts of the 20th century when you could even buy a house (IKEA-style) in the catalog and have it delivered right to your property.

The last year of the Sears catalog was 1993, coincidentally right around the time AOL and the Internet were coming to fruition. The last year the Sears catalog was of any consequence to the toy industry was in the late 70’s. We used to hold a “Catalog Sale” every fall where you brought in your catalog and we matched the prices. By the late 70’s the prices in these catalogs were the same or higher than they were in our store.

Mom & Pop Retailers survived.

Do you remember when the big-box category killers like Staples, Home Depot, Barnes & Noble, and Toys R Us were going to destroy all the Mom & Pop Retailers? That was a more recent development in the 1980’s and 90’s. A lot of our vendors left us for the supposed greener pastures. Heck, they even stole our moniker and still to this day, many in the media call those stores “specialty stores” because they “specialized” in one industry.

Yet we all found ways to compete around them, by changing our product mix, out-servicing them, and staying current to trends in our industries.

Mom & Pop Retailers survived.

Do you remember when the big-box discounters were going to destroy all Mom & Pop Retailers? Wal-Mart, Target, and K-Mart would be the death of us all through their discounted buying, bullying practices with vendors and suppliers, and their sheer size (and deep pockets). 

They ended up being even less of a threat than the category killers as they raced to the bottom selling only the cheapest of the cheap. Our customers realized cheaper isn’t always better. Instead those stores fed on each other until K-Mart was eaten alive.

Mom & Pop Retailers survived.

Do you remember when the Internet—and especially Amazon—were going to destroy all the Mom & Pop Retailers? How could we compete with their prices? How could we compete with their selection? How could we compete with their convenience?

Yet many retailers either embraced them or learned to work around them. And in reality, the biggest bite Amazon took was with the department stores, the category killers, and the big-box discounters.

Mom & Pop Retailers survived.

Yes, there were some casualties along the way. Technology disrupted and destroyed the record store industry. But it wasn’t another retailer that did them in. It was a fundamental change in how we consumed music.

The same can be said for the video stores. It wasn’t Netflix’ DVD mail service that did video stores in. It was online streaming.

Heck, those industries aren’t even completely dead. Video stores still exist. Vinyl is on the rise. Independent book stores withstood Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon and are back on a growth trajectory. Independent toy stores outlived Toys R Us. Pet stores are multiplying faster than the bunnies they sell.

Mom & Pop Retailers survived.

The point is that pundits have predicted the death of Mom & Pop Retailers several times over the last century, yet you’re still standing.

You’re still standing because you adapt to change.

Change is inevitable. The death of Mom & Pop Retailers is not.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Not all change is detrimental. We computerized Toy House in 1989 with an IBM AS/400 that needed a custom-built cabinet large enough to house it. The sales reports took hours to run. I planned my afternoon work by running reports all morning and my morning work the next day by running reports all night. Nowadays my retailers can pull up reports in seconds on their phones while in the booth. Technology, when properly embraced, has made being a mom & pop retailer much easier than ever before.

PPS Yes, most of my blogs are about “tools” you can use to make your business better. Think of this post as a “mental tool” to use. When you take on the mindset that change inevitable and go out looking how to use the changes to your advantage, you will always be more successful than the businesses that run around screaming the sky is falling.

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