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In an age where people are becoming more brand-conscious and focused on the “why” behind the brands they choose to support, the small businesses of the world are still struggling. Vocoli is a company founded in Boston, by local people who care about small businesses and New England brands.
So we were disappointed when we found out today that a Boston staple - City Sports would be closing its doors for good.
City Sports is your typical Boston small business - it was founded in 1983 by two guys who realized there was a need in the market. They opened up shop in Boston’s iconic Mass Ave in the Fenway neighborhood and they’ve been offering sports apparel and equipment for locals and tourists alike for over 30 years.
One would think that with all of the fixation on locally-sourced and ethical products, and the “shop small” mentality that has continued to grow over the last decade, that businesses like City Sports would be alive and well. Heck, even Amazon, which terminated the idea of the quaint neighborhood bookstore, is now starting to unveil a new line of . . . well . . . quaint neighborhood bookstores.
The struggle to survive as a local business in today’s market is just as challenging today as it was in 1983. But, if you as a small business owner are sitting there with sweat on your brow thinking about how you will pay next month’s rent, there are steps you can take to stop you from going the way of City Sports:
1. Be Visible - One of the biggest reasons why people don’t shop locally? Because they don’t know you’re there! It’s 2015. You no longer have to sit in your shop hoping someone skims across your name in the Yellow Pages. Get on social media, be active every day, and find people who live in your neighborhood but haven’t stopped in yet. Having a website is not enough - Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Instagram and so on are your door to an entirely new generation of customers. These customers CARE about the businesses they choose to support, they WANT to buy small and they are WILLING to pay more if it means their purchase has meaning.
2. Brand Better - This goes hand-in-hand with the shop small mentality. Make your business likeable. Get out in your community and support other small businesses, volunteer, attend local events. Molly’s Magnificent Muffins may, in fact, have the most magnificent muffins, but people will want to buy them over a Starbucks reheated and rock-hard blueberry scone if Molly also supports a local walk for charity or donates her extra product to the food bank.
3. Make it Easy - Why is it that people are so addicted to Amazon? Their products aren’t always cheaper, they don’t treat their employees better than any other large employer, so why all the excitement? Because Amazon makes life easy. They offer same-day delivery in most large cities. Which means that if we run out of paper towels in the morning I don’t have to shove through crowds at Target during my lunch break. Instead, I can hop on Amazon, order paper towels, and they will be delivered to my office before I leave for the day. If you are a small business and you haven’t at least looked into home delivery or an online store, now is the time. Services like UPS, Fedex and local courier services can help keep your overhead low, while giving you the same competitive edge as the big guys. Extending your reach as a small business benefits not only you, but gives people who want to buy small, but aren’t able to because of time constraints, the ability to do so.
The shift in consumer buying desires has made this the perfect time to be a small business. Leverage people’s desire to shop local, and support businesses with a great cause by helping them to overcome larger hurdles like accessibility and schedule. Make certain that your name is out there so people CAN support you. And, most of all, keep fighting the good fight. America was built on small businesses, just like yours, and only we can stop them from going the way of City Sports and so many others.
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