Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

In the United States, businesses call it Black Friday. Consumers call it the day after Thanksgiving. Whatever you call it, this time of year represents the unofficial kick off to peak selling season for retailers of all sizes. And as each year passes, independent retailers feel more and more heat from chain stores and online retailers with seemingly unlimited advertising dollars and price discounting powers.

While local retailers have fewer resources than big-box stores, there are a number of ways they can set themselves apart. If you run a small business, here are three tips to compete this shopping season:

1. Don't try to beat the likes of Wal-Mart at their own game.

Story continues below advertisement

Large retailers have more leverage than you in just about every meaningful benchmark you can think of. Don't waste your valuable time, effort and money shaving prices, posting flyers in newspapers and running television ads. Trust me you'll fall short.

While their size permits them to execute in ways you can't compete, the reverse is also true. As a larger corporation, it can be more difficult to personalize, customize, prioritize and localize their customers' experiences. As a small retailer, take advantage of this fact by executing on your strengths, not by trying to compensate for your weaknesses.

2. Personalize your products and services.

Big-box stores are in my face all the time with e-mails, flyers, radio and TV ads. Trouble is, that while I see and hear from these ads a lot, they're never actually speaking to me. Instead they're speaking to everyone all at once. These stores don't know me by name. I can't ask for my usual sales associate when I walk in and I'm not even sure if they could respond to a product specific e-mail inquiry if I sent one.

Your business, on the other hand, knows its regular customers by name. Hopefully you keep a simple database of your customers and their purchase history. Reach out to them by direct mail, e-mail and phone and highlight a new product or service that fits with their interests. When something worthwhile is presented to me in a personalized manner, I pay way more attention.

Offer personal favours such as layaways, a bring-a-friend VIP night or first dibs on a hard to find best seller. When customers realize that you know them by name and remember their preferences, they'll become fiercely loyal, not just during the holiday season, but all year long.

3. Customize your offerings.

Story continues below advertisement

While big-box stores appear to offer a huge selection to their customers, they often struggle to 'go deep' with any particular brand; by that I mean they offer only a handful of a particular brand's best selling items and often ignore the rest of the brand's product line. They do this because the bulk of the sales come from popular items, leaving many brands unrepresented with regards to their specialty or niche products. Most big-box stores can't be bothered to special order anything for you either.

That's where you come in. You can carry and/or special order niche products from your vendors. Furthermore, you can bundle items within or between brands. Maybe you can offer a special on full-size snow shovels by bundling it with a collapsible shovel that fits in the trunk of a car. By doing this you are offering a 'deal,' but the focus is less on the price and more on the additional product that the customer was probably unlikely to consider buying if it wasn't for the deal. This makes apple-to-apple price comparisons difficult and boosts your average sale per customer.

Holding small promotions and leveraging the resources you already have – such as employee time, customer data and unique products from your vendor – can help you compete. But it won't happen if you try to mimic big-box competitors. Instead, play your own game, where you control the rules.

Check back next week and I will cover more tips including how using prioritization and localization can make this holiday shopping season powerful and profitable.

Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and exited seven businesses.

Follow us @GlobeSmallBiz and on Pinterest
Join our Small Business LinkedIn group
Add us to your circles
Sign up for our weekly newsletter

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies