Ultimately, surviving the economic recession and besting the competition in the future requires that independent retailers find their niche, constantly reinvent themselves and offer consumers a personalized service or item not offered elsewhere, many small business owners have said.
Here's a video of a few retailers -- a food place, a chocolatier (Marnie Ives, at left) and a clothing story -- talking about their challenges.
“You have to reinvent yourself,” said Allen Honig, 57, owner of Great Neck’s Poultry Mart, a store which sells prepared chicken made in just about any culinary style imaginable as well as side dishes. “You have to listen to what people are asking for and give it to them.”
When Honig’s father, Joseph, established the business in 1950, he initially sold raw poultry and poultry products and eventually evolved into selling prepared foods. Honig said he adapted his wide ranging chicken menu by anticipating trends like skinless fried or roasted chicken and by taking note of customer tastes and requests.
This is the sort of innovation that is required he said because competition in the prepared foods sector has grown rapidly over the last several decades. That his employees have between 15 and 20 years at the shop, also is critical to customer service and survival, Honig said.
“Today you have 15 options to get food,” Honig said. “The other thing is the pie is getting cut and its dwindling. And of course the profit margins have dwindled and prices have gone through the roof.”
During a very tough economic climate, Robert Yeganeh, owner of the five-store shoe chain Love My Shoes, invested in restructuring his company completely, hiring a buyer and completely overhauling his inventory and marketing strategies.
“The long-term goal is to be that fashion destination for shoes,” said Yeganeh, whose business is about 15 years old. “We did a major change in pricing. We’re a lot more competitive and much less risky with how we price things and it helps us be a lot more competitive.”
Yeganeh said his business was built as a fast fashion retailer, offering customers the latest shoe trends that are designed and manufactured quickly and sold at an affordable price. And despite being a self-service retailer, he said his stores emphasize customer service.
Serve the customer
Dale Goldstein, a partner in Lonny’s Wardrobe, a local five-store retailer, noted that customer service has created a loyal clientele from the area as well as Westchester County and New York City.
“I tell them what’s going to fit them, how to put it together and what’s going to go together,” Goldstein said. She later added, “The personal service you give is going to make you or break you and that’s what keeps us alive.”
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