June  2002

     From the Editor
by Samantha Carpenter

                       Routing for the Underdog

SAMANTHA  “I’m here to tell you that there are a lot of customers out there that 
are routing for you and want to see smaller companies succeed.”

When I was 14, my parents moved our family from Atlanta to small-town Arkansas. Imagine that—moving from a city of more than 400,000 to a town of less than 10,000. I was in shock to say the least.

While living in Atlanta, I always asked my parents if I could go to the mall. However, when I moved to small-town Arkansas, there was no mall. But, there was the next best thing—Wal-Mart.

Not only did Wal-Mart have just about anything a teenager could desire, you were bound to see at least one of your friends when you shopped there. For a small town, it was definitely a social spot.

But something happened to my view of big discount retailers between living in small-town Arkansas and gradually moving back to a metropolitan city. Now, most of the time, I find myself stopping at one of the five Walgreens in my area rather than driving to one of the bigger discount 

Why—you might ask? To be real honest, I don’t really like crowds, plus I want to be able to get in and out of a store in less than two hours.

I do not consider myself one of those shoppers who likes to look at everything in the store; I normally know exactly what I want, pick it up and get out as fast as I can.

About a year ago, my husband and I went to the super store by our house, and we shopped for about an hour for groceries, and then we ended up standing in line for 30 minutes.

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t because I was searching for a product and I was too shy to ask where it was. I’m definitely not embarrassed to ask where an item is; now my husband on the other hand, would rather die than ask. He would say that asking for directions takes the fun out of it.
But there have been those times when I have asked an associate where an item is located, and he didn’t have the foggiest idea of where it might be. 

Or even worse is when you say to an associate, “Excuse me, Miss?” Pause. “Excuse me, Miss?” Pause. “Excuse me, Miss?”

“Yeah. What can I help you with?” the associate responds in a haughty voice, neglecting to make any eye contact with you.

Maybe my current avoidance of large discount retailers has something to do with living in a big city again. Perhaps living in a small town had its advantages because usually you knew the people working in the local discount retailer.

So what does all this discount-retailer mumbo jumbo have to do with SHELTER readers?

Many of you may be sweating because there is a big-box store moving into your area, and you don’t know how your store is going to compete in the future.

We at SHELTER know that you have concerns about the big-box stores. In this issue, you can read how a woodworking company and small hardware store feel about big-box stores moving into their areas (see related article, "Big Box Bulletin").

I’m here to tell you that there are a lot of customers out there that are rooting for you and want to see smaller companies succeed. Plus, many of your customers will realize that in the end, many small retailers can excel in an area where many larger retailers fall negligent, and that’s the service area.
So my advice: keep on making your customers happy, and they’ll be with you for the long haul. 

Samantha Carpenter, editor


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