Last Thursday, at the Virginia Main Street 25th Anniversary Milestone Achievement Awards, keynote speaker Chuck D’Aprix spoke about the importance of making your downtown attractive to entrepreneurs. One way to do this is to focus on the quality of the experience rather than the quantity of products you sell.
In short, it is difficult to compete with big box store prices and the accompanying scale that makes those small margins possible. So why not try delving into high quality products that carry a much higher margin and offer a much richer experience?
If you focus on giving your downtown customers a quality, authentic and unique experience, you will become an attraction for those with quality in mind who don’t mind paying a little (or a lot) extra for that quality. To quote an article on Kansas’ Prairie Marshes in Legacy Magazine,
Happy and satisfied visitors stay longer, return often, and “spread the word” both about the joys of visiting our region and the importance and significance of the resources found here. This has raised the visibility of the tourism industry at the local, state, and national levels.
From $10,000 boots to stagecoaches to ballgloves to guitars, watch this short slideshow on successful “craftpreneurs.” And yes, I just made up that word.
Bob Mills, owner of Angle Hardware in Rocky Mount, VA, once told me that Wal-Mart didn’t bother him. Their product knowledge and quality was poor. Lowe’s has a much wider selection and is more specialized than Wal-Mart, but do you think you can get someone at Lowe’s to tell you whether a machine screw or a hex bolt will hold better? Angle Hardware is the real deal. You don’t wander for hours past spa tubs to find your drill bits. You walk in and you get greeted by name and with a handshake and a sincere, “What can I help you with?” If you need one screw, you get one screw, not a box of 25.
Quality customer service is a rare commodity; but one you can find readily on Virginia’s Main Streets.