Getting your product into mom-and-pop stores can be great for your business. Yes, mom-and-pop’s have had it rough in the past few decades as big box stores spread across America, but they’ve also adapted and learned what they have to do to stay in business. And that adaptation has given them several distinct advantages in the retail market.
Once you’re in mom-and-pop stores, you’ll get much more information about how your product does when you’re not there to sell it. When customers never see your face like they do at a farmers’ market, and they never read your story like they do on Etsy, your product will have to stand on its own. The data you get from mom-and-pops will give you the information you need to tweak and refinine your packaging, and products.
1) The Store Rules Are More Flexible
Your Product Will Be Stocked Faster
Want to see your product in big box shelves? Even if you got a yes from a buyer today, that process takes at least a year.
Big companies are going to minimize risks however possible, and this means vetting you and your business, making sure you can deliver the amount of product you said you could while maintaining quality and not falling behind an established timeline.
This means they’ll inspect any part of your production line they see fit and make sure it meets their standards. They want to make sure your manufacturing is set up and reliable. QVC spent 18 months reviewing Supersmile because they wanted to ensure their products really whitened teeth and didn’t have any harmful side effects.
Mom-and-pops provide a friendly alternative to all that red tape. They work on their own timelines which are typically much, much quicker. Depending on the store and industry, buyers may take your product right on the spot, or they may agree to stock your products within a month or two.
Your Display And Store Location Is More Customizable
You may have an exact idea of where in the store you want your product to be, and what you want the display to look like. However, big-box retailers are so tightly packed with other products they’re unlikely to meet any special requests you have. Plus, with so many different suppliers waiting for their chance, they don’t have any incentive to compromise with you. If you don’t want the shelf space they’re offering, they can just move on.
Independent retailers and smaller stores are much more likely to listen to and follow through with your requests. Although they certainly don’t have to do anything they don’t want to, if you’re a great salesperson you may be able to convince them that displaying your product in a certain way is advantageous to them. In most cases, you’ll be talking to someone who has direct control over what the displays are, versus in big-box where buyers won’t be as involved with how products are presented.
2) The Shop Owner Can Be Your Ally
Having a relationship with the owner of an independent store or a mom-and-pop shop is a more intimate relationship than with buyers at a big box store. With that increased intimacy comes the types of perks that happen with a closer bond.
You can ask for customer data, even if it’s just observed. You can ask for general advice, if they’ve seen products like yours, and what worked for them.
Because their shop is smaller, their business is more dependent on you, so they’re incentivized to see you succeed in ways that big box stores can’t be.
They also have more time for you and are more likely to view you as a peer. Since you are both small business owners, your jobs are more related than someone who’s a buyer at a big box store. The mom-and-pop owner understands the hardships of being an entrepreneur, and they’re more likely to give you second chances, work with you to succeed, and to root for you in general.
3) Smaller Means Less Pressure
Sure, mom-and-pop stores can’t offer you the overnight piles of cash big box stores can. However, with those tantalizing cash offers also come some serious responsibilities. Before you make the deal of a lifetime, don’t you want to feel confident that you can make a deal?
The Financial Responsibilities Are Much Easier To Handle
Gearing up for a run in a big-box location involves a lot of inventory. And that means you need to have a lot of cash to pay for manufacturing. Add in a year-long plus sales cycle, and that means you’re going to have to go a long time without seeing any returns.
For many entrepreneurs, buying tens of thousands of dollars of product in one go is a stressful task. All business owners like a little risk, but taking out a huge loan or a second mortgage on your house can be overwhelming for even the most adventure hungry entrepreneurs. By going mom-and-pop, you won’t have to risk it all to see if your product works. Orders from these stores only require hundreds or low thousands of dollars of inventory.
4) You Can Test, Refine, and Repeat
Besides Tom Hanks, none of us are perfect. Which means no matter how hard you try, you will not come up with a perfect product and business on your first try.
Something will go wrong, an assumption you made will prove to be untrue. Manufacturers will be unreliable, employees will get sick, you’ll realize that joke in your sales pitch never gets a laugh. That’s just how life works.
So give yourself the gift of editing. Do everything the best you can, get your product out there in mom-and-pop stores, and see what goes wrong.
5) You’re Part Of A Community
People love shopping at Target, Walmart, and other big chains. However, people generally don’t feel warm and fuzzy towards these businesses, and they certainly don’t have a vested interest in keeping them afloat.
Big-box stores are slick and corporate. Despite a lot of them telling us that ‘we’re family,’ that marketing technique comes off as what it is: a marketing technique.
Small shops are not like that. They are usually community staples, with real ties to the people that shop there. Customers feel actively invested in shopping local, and are more likely to be loyal to your brand as a result.
Mom-and-pop stores also operate primarily by word of mouth. This means if your product becomes popular, a whole community may learn they can get your product at their local store.