10 Ways a Small Retailer Can Flourish When Walmart Threatens to Derail Their Business

It’s an alarming phenomenon that’s happening to retailers all too often…

After years of profitability, new and seasoned store owners alike watch as their foot traffic dies and their sales dry up, until it appears that their business will succumb to the suffocating competition of big discount retailers like Walmart.

But that doesn’t have to be your story. In fact, as Business News Daily points out, there are still many who believe “the proverbial dragon can be slain using the proper strategies.”

Here are the top 10 things you can do to flourish in a world seemingly dominated by Walmart:

1. Offer higher quality merchandise – Offering higher quality products isn’t something Walmart is equipped to do. By increasing the quality of your products, you can attract customers who are willing to pay for higher end merchandise. According to Business News Daily, “Walmart tries to be all things to all people on the low end, but not everyone wants the lowest quality and the lowest price.”

2. Supercharge your online presence – Small businesses hold the advantage when it comes to developing customer email lists, writing blogs, and getting involved in social networking. While large discount retailers may have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, your small business has the opportunity to develop more personal relationships with customers. That’s important because, “People want to do business with other people they know, like and trust.”

3. Take advantage of specialty items – Because small businesses don’t have to appeal to the general masses, they can provide specialty items that Walmart and other large discount retailers can’t. For example, if you’re an independent grocery store, you can thrive against the bigger chains by offering European meats you know local residents are looking for. Specialty items encourage shoppers to choose local specialty stores over Walmart. “You have to have a special reason for existing,” says Business News Daily. “You have to give people a reason to come into your stores.”

4. Lend a listening ear to customers – Most consumers have probably noticed that Walmart greeters are friendly, but they don’t really do much more than say hello and point shoppers in the right direction. As a small business owner, you can greet customers as they walk in the door, too, but you can also have more meaningful conversations and make changes based on the comments you’re hearing.

5. Get Involved in the community – Small business owners have a golden opportunity to make connections in their local community.   But while Walmart donates funds to build new baseball fields, you can do something as simple as sponsoring a local children’s team, with far greater impact. “It just takes being out there to make that connection,” says Business News Daily. “That is something a big-box store isn’t capable of.”

6. Provide additional services –  As a small business owner, you can offer your customers extra service—in addition to products— like repairs and installation. Big box stores like Walmart generally stick to a strategy of selling cheaper products (with no repair options) with the expectation that consumers will eventually be back to buy another.

7. Offer out-of-this-world customer service – In a small business, you can treat every customer like a VIP. That’s important because customers are more loyal to businesses that make them feel special. Something as simple as remembering customers’ names can give small businesses a competitive advantage.

8. Mix up your product base – It’s easier for you, as a small business, to mix up your product base in order to meet the changing demands of your customers. If one product isn’t selling, you can search for a new vendor or simply change the product. Walmart, on the other hand, has long-term contracts with vendors, making it harder to change up their merchandise. As Business News Daily points out, “They are so large that they can’t change midstream like an independent can.”

9. Offer meaningful merchandise – When customers are looking for a more personalized gift for someone special, Walmart probably isn’t the first place that pops into their head. As a small business owner, you can offer more meaningful items that cater to discerning gift givers.

10. Sell convenience – Not everyone has time—or the desire—to walk every aisle at Walmart super stores. But as a small business, you can offer shoppers a convenient place to quickly and easily get in and out with what they want. “Mom-and-pop stores can use their small size to their advantage by making it easier for people,” says Business News Daily.


As a small business owner, you don’t have to be another casualty of large discount retailers. That’s because local and specialty businesses have advantages that the Walmarts of the world can’t possibly take advantage of.

The 10 tips above will help your store flourish in a retail climate where big-box stores are derailing many small businesses.

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.