Long Live the Mom and Pop: Why Small Businesses Have a Magic Touch
The saying “bigger is better” doesn’t always hold true. Take for example those old, huge brick cell phones that lived in the trunk of your car circa 1990. Though I never got the opportunity to see these mammoths in action (I’m far too young for that) my parents tell me stories of pulling over on the side of the road, popping the trunk, and unzipping the briefcase the cell phone was housed in, all to make a simple call. I’ll gladly take my much smaller iPhone4, thank you!
Not a techy guru? Then let’s use cars as another example. Bigger cars are not necessarily better, either. Think about finding a parking spot for a Mack truck! Thanks, but no thanks. I’d much prefer driving my Jeep Liberty. Or how about in the instance of food? While the thought of sinking your teeth into a huge burger with mounds of fries may sound tempting, you must remember your eyes are often bigger than your stomach. Large portions of food aren’t always better because that “I’m so full I could burst” feeling isn’t a pleasant one. I’d much rather take a portion size that was just right so as to avoid busting at the seams (and the temptation of extra calories) when I can’t clear my enormous plate. This theory that bigger isn’t always necessarily better can be applied to retail examples as well. Let’s take a look:
Boutique-themed shops are popping up everywhere. Bed and breakfasts are gaining popularity as they compete against large chain hotels. Why? Because small bed and breakfasts and privately-owned shops not only offer character and a unique experience, but they also embody that “make yourself at home” atmosphere. And that’s exactly what travelers are looking for – a home away from home!
The restaurant industry is taking this boutique-y lead as well. Many privately-owned cafés are now stealing the spotlight of chain stores such as Starbucks and Caribou Coffee. I saw this theory in action during a recent trip to Los Angeles. While I consider myself a loyal Starbucks fan, I noticed the trend of L.A. natives retreating to local cafes in place of Starbucks. It didn’t take me long to figure out why, though. Smaller boutique cafes offer a personalized experience from the moment you walk through the door.
While I don’t fault Starbucks for their atmosphere at all, the ambiance at these smaller local coffee shops is just THAT much more appealing. Added to the atmosphere, the customization of beverages even outdid Starbucks’ millions of options! Then, to round out the personalized experience, café waiters hand-delivered your beverage once it was ready, which was a welcomed change from simply blurting out the order number as it happens in coffee house chains.
Finally, even America’s largest supercenter is scaling down: Wal-Mart has announced plans to scale down their sprawling establishments so as to cast a larger appeal to communities around the nation. Wal-Mart, which has received endless criticism for their expansive buildings, is going to start new store concepts over the next few years. Instead of building the enormous supercenters (which average 187,000 square feet), Wal-Mart will be featuring smaller versions which average 40,000 square feet. Hopefully this will be a step in the right direction for this discount retailer. Personal attention and customer satisfaction is something that is becoming increasingly more popula, and Wal-Mart should be willing to accommodate those interests!
What’s the take away from these scenarios? You guessed it: bigger isn’t always better. America is moving from large chains – which don’t offer much in the way of showing their customer appreciation – and more towards smaller establishments that take a vested interest in the wants and needs of shoppers. The individual attention small businesses offer make the experience more enjoyable and consumers around the country agree. Time to ditch the bigger is better attitude and get with the program: smaller is actually better!
Do you agree that mom and pop shops can offer better service than retail giants? Is less really more? We’d love to hear your comments!