mike youngRecently I was in a discussion with some local friends about shopping. The discussion centered around supporting local business or looking for a better selection or a better deal. We all are aware of the struggles a local business has to deal with including local government and getting reasonable prices from their suppliers and then there is the rent.  It seems that dealing with changing regulations and fighting off rent increases are constant problems. Yet when I go to the local business I get great service, they seem to care about me and sometimes even know my name. That feels good.

However, peoples shopping habits are in consent flux. With the downturn in average income over the last 7 years many more people are cost sensitive. Looking for the best price has not only become a treasure hunt but in many cases a necessity.  That’s where the big box stores have filled a void. Huge buying power forces down supplier’s prices, low staffing cost and one stop shopping have helped them become the big kid on the block. Can’t find anyone to help you but the prices are good.

Now in business a new force has arisen which provides the best prices, unlimited selection and usually quick delivery. Yet the internet is a scary place, don’t know the people and service is non-existent but wow the prices and selections are great. We’re a little worried until we unpack the goods to see what we bought. Yet people with little disposable income can save lots of money. Many times there is no sales tax and sometimes no delivery charges.

We as consumers have a wonderful choice, if we’re wealthy and want service; we shop locally or at high end stores where service and quality are king and queen. Those with more modest income shop some locally and some big box when we know what we need. We have great examples here in Mesquite, Wal-Mart vs. the other guys. Smiths’ market provides excellent quality, selection and service but cost a little more. ACE hardware provides excellent service and knowledgeable staff plus a large selection but costs a little more. Surprisingly we do have to pay for quality and service but for many of us it’s worth it. Those with a tight budget may have to look to the lowest price.

Like it or not this is the changing face of business. Many years ago the local shop was our only choice. We had to save for many things but we got a knowledgeable staff and service. Today the landscape has changed; small business must change and get out of the footprint of big box stores and offer service and selection that the others can’t match.

It’s true that small businesses are fading but some of it is because of a lack of flexibly and understanding what they are facing plus the fact that we don’t need near as many of them that just have the same stuff. They can learn from the internet guys that maybe they don’t have to have a store front and use a lot of capital on rent when they don’t depend on foot traffic. We have a store in Mesquite who’s going to give that a try. If others are smart they will look at that possibility too.