I supported American Express Small Business Saturday by shopping at children’s bookstore and toy store that has helped to revitalize a downtown nearby. I always thought supporting small businesses meant keeping the character and community of a town intact. I never thought about how shopping online or in other towns could take away the sales tax and revenue to my own region (which I realize is short sighted). Aside from taxes, our local businesses contribute money or goods to schools and town-wide events, too- another reason to support them. But how can they make us want to support them?
Say hello. As the daughter of a small town florist, I was taught how important it is to greet your customers. When I walk into businesses that don’t greet me or offer help, I usually walk right out, unless there is something I HAVE to have inside. (And it goes both ways, as a customer it is polite to at least call out “thank you” when walking out the door, even if you don’t buy anything).
Make each purchase seem like a gift. In Paris, just about anything you buy is wrapped like a gift. If Massachusetts were like Paris life would be perfect. Since we don’t live in Paris, I appreciate any small shop that has quality handled paper bags or a clever way of packaging purchases. Better yet, offer gift wrapping: as a busy mother, I’d rather go to a local toy store that gift wraps instead of saving a few bucks from Amazon and wrapping gifts myself. Even if you are dealing with a limited budget and only offer grocery store plastic bags, pack everything with care.
Reward loyalty. If a customer frequents your small business, offer some sort of reward- whether it is a promotion on Foursquare, a punch card or simpler yet- by remembering their name, what they like to order/drink/buy and maybe throwing in a free cookie or a little discount once in awhile. This week, I visited a children’s consignment store and the owner let me know that the Zutano outfit I was buying for my 2 year old would be going on sale in a few days. She decided to give me the sale price early. I’ll be sure to go back to buy more, and in fact- I promoted her business to my network on Facebook that day.
Offer goodies or samples. My kids would rather go to our local drycleaner that gives them lollipops than a large chain that would pick up and deliver my cleaning from my house. I would rather buy wine from a wine store that offers tastings and maybe some cheese.
Provide personal customer service. Our local supermarket offers assistance with groceries to our cars- a godsend for moms with young kids (I load the baby into the car seat while my groceries are being packed and I don’t have to worry about leaving the cart in the parking lot and my kids alone in the car). A family-owned shoe store two towns over takes time to measure my kids’ feet and make sure their shoes fit. This type of service makes me pay a little more because the services are worth the price.
Take time to refresh. A tailor shop in town has had the same green sport jacket in the window since I moved here ten years ago. The florist shop looks less modern than my mom’s did in the 1980s. These signs tell me that the owners don’t care (even though they may be the best tailors or florists around). Change that window display. Check out how your competitors are doing things. Switch up the menu just a bit to incorporate something new.
As customers, we can return the favor by being loyal, acting polite, not grabbing all of the samples or letting our children knock over the displays and spreading the good word about all that our favorite small businesses have to offer.
What do you love about your local small business?