As the owner or manager of a small retail shop, you know the challenges local retailers face, from the big box stores to price points you can’t match. Items often cost more in your store because you buy fewer of them at a time.

However, the small, independent retailer has advantages over the heavy-hitting competition. Using what you’ve got to your best advantage may deliver more traffic to your hardware store, restaurant, clothing emporium or jewelry display.

Here are some ideas to help you boost sales:

1. If they don’t know you’re there, they can’t buy from you. Location is critical to retail success. You may save on rent with a low-visibility storefront, but if prospective buyers don’t know you’re there, chances are, you’ll lose sales.

A good location with eye-catching signage is a daily reminder that you’re there, open for business. Your store front windows are a sidewalk display that can pull in first-time buyers doing a little “window shopping.”

2. Brand your store with a theme. Sell “your” look, whatever it might be: exotic, elegant, low-cost, high-end – establish your retail outlet’s theme and find a niche market focused on speciality items. Customers know they might not find the “look” they want at a big box store, but they’re likely to find it in your boutique. 

3. Separate sale items. Keep sale items on a separate table. Announce dinner specials in print attached to the main menu. This does two things.  First, it makes it easier for customers to find the bargains du jour. Second, customers like to save money, so saving a few dollars by ordering that evening’s special or buying something from the sales rack makes a great shopping experience even better.

4. Use incentives to keep customers coming back. Once you have a customer, keep him/her coming back. Keep him/her informed of the latest.

Collect customer email addresses and smart-phone numbers to send your “preferred customers” a coupon for 40% off snow tires, or a buy-one get-one-free dinner on Valentine’s Day.

With today’s technology, you can pro-actively reach out to customers who’ve provided an email address or smart phone number – customers who want to hear what’s new at the shop. A stable client base is the foundation of retail success, so keep them coming back.

5. Focus on in-store client care. Here’s an area where you’ll most likely beat the mega-stores every time – personalized care. “How may I help you?” If you employ sales staff, be sure to train them to deliver the same level of client care you deliver yourself. You and your staff should be helpful, accommodating, agreeable, and there to keep the customer happy.

6. Engage clients. Get to know your regulars on a first-name basis. Customers appreciate being recognized.  Ask customers questions and offer suggestions. “New washing machine? Okay, how many people in your family?” By asking relevant questions, you can offer the best solutions – again, something mega-marts don’t do well.

To really create clients who spread the word about how great your store is, offer a little freebie at the checkout – a surprise. Or drop the price a few dollars for “one of our best customers.”

Small retailers make it personal because, many times, it is personal.

7. Offer the same terms the big stores offer. A money-back guarantee, low-cost financing, free delivery and set up. Retailers don’t just sell products, they sell services associated with those products, from no-interest financing to next day delivery.

Consumers will appreciate the convenience of big store terms, coupled with the personalized attention they receive as soon as they enter the store.

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.