How to help local retailers thrive in the age of Amazon

Author: Lindsay Gaskins
President, The Bike Cooperative
Senior Executive responsible for bringing innovative operational and technology solutions to fuel the growth of the independent business members of one of the largest purchasing cooperatives in the retail space, with more than 2,800 locations in North America, spanning 14 business units.

E-commerce giants like Amazon have overhauled the way we do business across nearly every industry. With faster shipping, cheaper prices, and little to no interaction with sales teams —  have consumer expectations and buying habits changed for good? 

Let’s look at some key facts about Amazon:

The US Amazon Prime customer base is growing, with an estimated 105 million subscribers as of June 2019, up from 95 million in June 2018.

On average, Amazon Prime members spent $1,400 US dollars per year in 2019.

Despite the popularity of subscription-based delivery services, Amazon’s profits have fallen 28% from the previous year and this is why: for one-day shipping, the typical order is $8.32, and Amazon spends $10.59 to fulfill and ship it. 

Amazon’s ability to focus on long-term growth and market share rather than their P&L is a luxury small businesses could only dream of. It demonstrates just how big and powerful they really are.

How can local retailers compete? Are the smaller players doomed in the age of Amazon?

At first glance, it might appear as if all hope is lost for independently-owned brick and mortar stores. But in fact,  quite the opposite is true. ACE Hardware is a perfect example of how local retails can continue to prosper in the Age of Amazon. Last year, ACE opened over 250+ stores and they have had comparable store sales increases year over year for almost a decade. How? They’ve played to their strengths in order to compete.

Inspired by ACE and based on my own experiences in retail, here are a few recommendations on how you too can help small businesses compete and thrive.

  1. Encourage being (even more) local and community-focused

    Small business owners can stand out by emphasizing their “local” brand. Encourage your group to use buzz words like “local” and “family-owned” in their POP  materials, emails, and advertising.  As well as participate in as many local events as possible. Engaging with the community at farmers’ markets and pop-ups is a great way to get the word out about their business, and hiring employees who live in the community can help build a client base of local customers. Want to help your group find new talent and reach more customers? CCA Member Solutions offers scalable hiring and marketing solutions specially designed for groups like yours.

  2. Suggest adding a new service to current product offerings

    If retailers are already offering in-store services, they should definitely be promoting them in any marketing materials and throughout the sales process. If they aren’t offering any additional services today,  consider adding one to the product mix. I’ve seen this work across all different industries: adding a coffee bar to a bike shop, gift-wrapping a toy-store,  or jewlery making classes at a local bead shop. Service-rich experiences with real humans will establish trust and leave a customer feeling seen, heard, and supported. These emotional ties can definitely outweigh the instant gratification of quick shipping! 

  3. Strengthen the power of the network

    We know that local retailers need an edge – that’s why your group exists.  Take a look at what your group currently provides to business owners, and make sure you’re working to fill in any gaps. It’s crucial for retailers to have access to the scale, buying power, and technology needed to rise up. Group benchmarking also helps owners see where they stand and reveals any blindspots. Most importantly, a strong network of like-businesses will inspire local owners and operators to keep going even when the future of retail seems uncertain. Retailers have the potential to thrive in their communities given good local strategies, new service offerings, and access to the right tools they need to be competitive.

Are you missing any of the key benefits listed above? Having trouble with participation?

CCA Member Solutions can help!

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