Do the Big Guys Have to Win?

A frequent reader wrote to disagree with my last post, Blind-sided! He thought it unfair to blame a Mom and Pop for failing to act in the face of an encroaching multi-billion dollar corporation. I’d like to give Mom and Pop more encouragement, and more credit, than that!

If someone moves next door and offers the same value you do for less, you’re cooked. Even if they are only perceived as offering the same value. When such a threat appears, you need to differentiate. Whether that means a radical change or just a louder voice, you have to act. Hope is not a strategy!

Edina Liquors, the subject of Blind-sided!, definitely should have done more than just hope. I lived in Edina for 18 years and we used to stop at the “munis” only when we didn’t have time to go elsewhere because we assumed they were more expensive and had less selection. By reading the recent article about Total Wines arrival down the street, I found out for the first time that the three municipal liquor stores’ profits pay for community arts and parks. Edina is an affluent, first-ring suburb of Minneapolis with over 54,000 people who totally support the community, education, and parks.  Had I known what I know now, I would have shopped at the munis all the time! How many Edina residents do you suppose have never connected those profits to the parks and art center they love? I’m pretty attuned to such things and I sure never got the message. Total Wine is not the first big discount liquor store in Minneapolis., but when they started planning a store at the city limits, why didn’t Edina Liquors start telling their story?

My reader also mentioned his creaky little hardware store with the slanted floor. We have one of those too and it seems to be doing fine. It’s fun and it’s interesting. People especially like it because they can find great solutions to problems even when they can only speak in terms of doohickeys and whatchamacallits. At Home Depot, you have to search for help and when you find it, the help is rarely very helpful and they certainly don’t help you kludge up a patch for your doohickey.

Every business needs to find their angle and many times that angle involves relationships, community, and other intangibles. I agree that lots of Mom and Pop shops are getting pushed out, and that is sad, but it is saddest when people just resign themselves to their “fate” as if it were inevitable.

Around here, a lot of Mom and Pops close because they get old and tired! I think the biggest problem often is finding someone willing to take over and work as hard as they have for decades. But that’s a different problem!

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