WADSWORTH — While small businesses like the Three Roses Boutique, Larry’s Music Center and Bicksler Electric offer very different products, the respective business’ owners all agree that a personal shopping experiences is the advantage they offer customers as the holiday shopping season draws near.
“A lot of people they still like to see it, touch it, feel it, try it on and bring it home so I think that is more of what a small business will do,” Three Roses Gift Boutique owner Diane Ollom said Thursday afternoon from behind her store’s counter.
Ollom, who has operated the boutique for 12 years, said she does not try to compete with big-box clothing retailers but instead tries to provide a personal shopping experience.
Ollom’s friend and employee Kris Storad said they will actually tell customers if something looks good on them.
“There are a lot of times we say no because we won’t let people walk out if it doesn’t look right on them, if they are not comfortable,” Ollom said. “If it doesn’t fit, there is no point because then you are going to buy something and you are going to bring it back and it is going to stay in your closet and you are never going to use it.”
On Thursday, local business owners in Wadsworth offered insights into what its like to own a small business in the age of online shopping and big box discount chains.
Bicksler Electric owner Paul Bicksler said it is simply not correct to assume that a big box retailer will be able to offer lower prices than a small business.
“We are a member of the Nationwide Buying Group, which is the largest buying group in North America, so pricewise we are competitive with all the box stores, but we are going to give you the better service,” the third-generation business owner said.
Bicksler said knowledge of the industry is something else a local retailer can provide its customers.
“The average length of stay at the box stores is less than a year for a sales person … ,” he said.
But getting people in the door to experience that knowledge and service is not always easy.
Ollom said that while the store typically has older clientele, the monthly Main Street Wadsworth First Friday events series brings in a wider range of customers to the shop.
All said they are looking forward to an after-Thanksgiving bump in sales.
While Black Friday has become a day for lining up outside the big box stores and rubbing elbows with strangers in malls across America, local businesses kickoff the shopping season the following day with “Small Business Saturday.”
Started by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday encourages individuals to support the local business in their communities.
According to American Express, 108 million individuals reported shopping or eating at local independently owned establishments across the nation, generating $12 billion in spending during last year’s Small Business Saturday.
Rather than concentrate on trying to beat the big box stores on Black Friday, Larry’s Music Center Manager Noah Shreve said the store will be offering Black Friday discounts of 10 percent to 15 percent storewide every Friday in November.
“There is not going to be any of that competition with the other places that are only doing sales the last Friday of the month,” he said.
Shreve said there are some things a small retailer can do to compete with larger retailers, and some things it just cannot.
“Smaller items like guitar strings they buy in such ridiculous bulk that they can sell them for pennies over what they paid for them and still turn a profit and we can’t survive like that,” he said. “On the other hand I don’t know, I don’t have as many of the large name brands but I have a wider range of brands.”
Shreve said it is great being located next to Wadsworth Music on College Street because while they are both small businesses, they carry different brands, and together carry more brand names than the big-box stores.