Bigger is not better

Until recently in Canada and the United States, the bigger retailers had a dominant share of the market, as evident in their overwhelming volume, a parallel to their social influence.
Using a combination of relatively low prices and relentless expansion, the national retailers, with their immense buying power, had very competitive prices. They drove countless small shops out of business and accelerated the decline of "main streets" in our urban areas.
Nevertheless, today the influence of the major retailers is slipping. They are scrambling to keep up with revitalized rivals that are redefining the retail business. The large chains can disrupt prices, albeit only temporarily, but their success is ending.
Rival retailers currently are luring customers who have become more affluent. They want, not primarily low prices, but instead are opting for greater convenience, more selection, higher quality, and greater service. Customers are choosing more upscale merchandise and varied alternatives. Too, the Internet helped show customers with more money in their pockets that there are different choices available.
As a result, our shoppers increasingly are looking for qualities that huge chains or box stores do not provide. As one retailer stated, "For the first time in a long time quality has a chance to gain on price."
Big brand name companies are recognizing those trends and are arranging exclusive distribution plans with smaller retailers.
Nowadays consumers are demanding more-up-to date products and choice, as well as more personalized service. Making such changes is very difficult for the big box stores or Wal-Mart-like operations. The latter organizations owed their pre-eminence to superior efficiency and uniformity, both derived from the vast scale of their operations. Those formulas no longer seem to work as in the past.
Business history is replete with examples of companies that grew and then tried to ensure that the market fit in with their know-how. Examples abound, such as the automobile companies whose long periods of success led to self-satisfaction and corporate blindness. We are witnessing now the breaking up of old patterns.
The revolution in retailing has affected even the high-tech world. Mass chains have failed to offer the personalized service and assistance that customers want, need, and find in smaller retailers.
Clearly, all across the board, the smaller stores are reshaping the retail business.

Bruce Whitestone