A comment from a local businessperson at a recent event caught my attention. It’s a warning.
“Our local businesses are competing with Amazon.”
Are they? Is any business competing with Amazon? Wal-Mart is struggling to keep up with them, because Amazon is a beast!
So, should local retailers close up shop and move on? No. But, they are going to have to offer a different value proposition. Fighting for who is going to sell consumers laundry detergent seems to be a losing one.
A changing Tide…
It was first brought to my attention that people are buying products such as laundry detergent online, by a friend who was ran ragged by e-commerce (see Amazon) this holiday season. My friend is a courier. We kind of laughed it off. Then LinkedIn sent me an email featuring this story.
Laundry detergent companies have over-packaged their products for years. The idea is to take up as much space and capture as much of our attention on the store shelf as possible. They are now developing packaging that is lighter, and more suitable for shipping. The innovation motivated by a desire to keep online retailers like Amazon happy. Smaller and lighter equals cheaper to ship.
My goal this holiday season was to gift local. I was about 95% successful. Quality products, a personal relationship and a story, is worth a lot to me. These are values that Amazon cannot compete with.
My family has been in the Salish knits business for the past 40 years. My sister and mother hand-knit super high-quality, beautiful sweaters. They use local wool, that is processed in Alberta.
They sell sweaters for $400-$500. You can buy six sweaters for that price online. The “Indian sweater” business, fed many Coast Salish families for decades leading up to the 1990’s. That was before they were replaced by a much cheaper, lighter, less scratchy, fleece product.
Designed with love, knit by hand
People buy our sweaters (and other wool products) because they are real. Custom designed with love, and knit with hands. Our customers take time to feel the quality and the warmth. They are not only buying a sweater, they are forming a relationship with our family, investing in art and writing a story.
We experienced the crash of the market. Coast Salish knitters could not compete with the rock-bottom price that the manufacturers of fleece could deliver their warmth for. So, in the 1990’s we stopped trying.
Until, we intentionally decided not to compete with them. We changed our value proposition. Our focus is on quality, local, handmade, personal contact, relationships, and love. Also, we know that the time it takes to wear out those six cheap fleece sweaters, your hand-knit sweater is just getting into its prime. Deliver that Amazon!
It’s happening! The disruption in the retail marketplace caused by online sellers is impacting small businesses and our town centres. Will we be able to compete? What are we doing about it? Do we care?
Perhaps, we should be asking what our town centres can offer that Amazon cannot. How can we capture warmth, love, and community, package it and offer it to our friends, family and neighbours? And finally, what role should our local and provincial government’s play in addressing these challenges?
I would love to hear from you.
What do you think? Do you shop online? Why? Do you try to balance your purchasing? Let me know in the comments below.