Progressive Grocer - June 2018 - 178

INDEPENDENT THOUGHTS
By Kat Martin

Take a Page From
Independent Bookstores
INDIE GROCERY STORES CAN LE ARN
FROM SOME OF THE OTHER RE TAIL SEGMENTS
ON HOW TO COMBAT THE AMA ZON EFFECT.

uch has been made of Amazon and the looming retail apocalypse. I recently
read a transcript of an NPR
interview about how the
ecommerce behemoth was
affecting independent bookstores. Like grocery stores,
bookstores also operate
on razor-thin margins, and
they also are often viewed
by consumers as having an air of authenticity.
However, the narrative of the indie bookstore didn't
have the expected ending. The gist was that Amazon,
which when introduced was just a book-selling behemoth
- remember those days, when Amazon simply sold books?
- did change the market but had the most effect on bigbox bookstores, because they were largely the same, with
a business model based mostly on price. Conversely, independent bookstores, with their focus on service and experience, were actually helped by Amazon, because the customers simply looking to shop by price alone had one place
to go - Amazon - but those consumers who wanted to
have an experience really had only one place to go - an
independent bookstore. Is this starting to sound familiar?
Not that independent bookstores didn't struggle: In the five
years after 1995, when Amazon started selling books online,
the number of indie bookstores declined 40 percent. But the
NPR interview noted that between 2009 and 2015, the number
of independent bookstores actually increased by 35 percent.
The moral of the story? You can't compete on price; you have
to draw consumers into your store through the experience they
can have while in it. This is where independents always shine,
especially compared with big-box operations.
And independent grocers can learn from their indie bookstore brethren, especially now that Amazon and other online

43%

of consumers surveyed visit a local store when
they need something within two to three days,
while only 29.1 percent use Amazon
Source: Netsertive

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retailers are taking on the grocery industry. This
isn't to say that independent grocers shouldn't
be in the ecommerce business - they definitely
should. You bet those indie bookstores have online
shops; after all, where else are consumers going to
turn for those hard-to-find titles?
What I took away from the NPR interview was
the idea that independents have to play up their
strengths, of which they have plenty. One is the burgeoning desire of consumers to shop local businesses. A recent Small Business Week survey from Netsertive found that 60 percent had shopped at a small
or local store within the past six months, and another 10 percent had shopped in one at some point.
The most telling data point was that 43 percent visit
a local store when they need something within two
to three days, while only 29.1 percent use Amazon.
While the survey obviously covers all of retail -
food decisions are generally more immediate than two
to three days - it still provides valuable information
on how consumers view small local businesses. They
are visiting your stores, and you are a trusted source.
Also, as happened in the book segment, with
some of the big-box chains going out of business
altogether - we're seeing some of this occurring
as well in grocery - indies were uniquely positioned to fill the gap.


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Progressive Grocer - June 2018

Contents
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