How To Beat the Wal-Marts

I get lots of calls to come in and speak to merchant groups when they learn that another Wal-Mart is moving to town. The fear of course is that they assume they can’t take on Wal-Mart and win. The truth is you can beat Wal-Mart or any other chain, you just can’t fight them.

Unfortunately, the secret to competing with the giant of your industry is pretty simple, but it’s hard.

Simple part is don’t try to compete with them. Hard part is it’s a bit more work than turning on the lights and doing what you’ve done for years.

To beat a giant, you’ve got to offer something they don’t (that’s the secret to competing with anyone really.) Wal-Mart does low price, what do you do. I hope it’s not low price. Rainy Day Books, an independent bookseller, hosts almost weekly author events and often sells out theaters for authors who agree to speak sign books for books sales only. If you buy a book, they drop you a note when a similar book shows up.

To beat a giant, you’ve to take advantage of their weaknesses – don’t be afraid to point them out. I saw a sign in a local hardware store that said “Our prices are higher than Wal-Mart because we take care of our employees.” Pretty bold, but perhaps an effective way to make a point.

To beat a giant, you’ve got to provide better information and community. I know a woman’s clothing retailer that puts on monthly events unrelated to clothing and packs her store with clients who come to learn and network.

Business is a tough game, but the bottom line is that there are plenty of people out there (like me) that will pay a premium for place that knows my name, caters to my needs, adds value through information sharing and community and isn’t shy about providing and then charging for value.

You get that I’m not just talking about retailer here, right? There are giants in every industry that you beat with the same principles.


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