Darwin Would Love Today’s Mom and Pop Stores – In Celebration of National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day

Survival of the fittest. That’s exactly how I would describe the conditions created in recent history within many American communities. The rise of the mega stores, or shopping clubs, create an intense amount of pressure for the traditional Mom and Pop stores. Lower prices and a seemingly unending amount of choices, combined with overwhelming advertising, make it virtually impossible for a small store to compete. 

Like Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, many of today’s mega corporations evolved from smaller business entities. Through a series of generations, the corporations took on different attributes and naturally evolved to meet the conditions that surrounded it. There can be microevolution where the original organism changes shape or color. Or macroevolution where the old version no longer exists.

It makes sense that both organizations are now trying to occupy the same space and compete for resources including share of the consumer’s wallet.  In order to avoid extinction, the Mom and Pop shop is finding ways to survive and thrive in the new competitive jungle. So how are they doing it?

The answer may be simpler than we think. They are winning in the “hyper” local market. Meaning, they are owning the customer base in their own backyard. Not focusing on attracting new business from outside their immediate area. They’ve also tapped into the need consumers have to want an individual identity. As a result, Mom and Pop have gotten to know their customers as a people, not just customers.

That’s right. They are taking time to get close to the people in their neighborhoods. Customer service is too corporate of term for how Mom and Pop operate. They are simply considered “neighborly.” They treat their customers as guests and relish every visit. They chat, they debate, they ask about how the family is doing. Unlike the mega stores, Mom and Pop know you well enough to always have your favorite off-the-wall product in stock. They don’t worry about sending you the perfect coupon to your mobile device. They’d rather see your smile. 

In every seminar I teach, I ask the question, “are people still willing to pay more for better service.” The answer has never been no. It’s true. We buy from people we like. The better the relationship the more likely it is that we will pay a little more for a product we can save a few pennies on at the shopping club. As consumers, the feeling you get shopping local makes you feel like you’re really contributing to your community and supporting a unique experience you’d like others to enjoy also. Even if it cost more.

The key to Mom and Pop’s survival is becoming a fixed part of the business community. To know the people around them. To always deliver an experience focused on the individual.  Consumers don’t want to be known as a faceless, nameless wallet through the revolving door of commerce. They want to know that someone out there values their business and needs them to return. Not all Mom and Pop stores have made it, but Darwin would be proud of the ones that have. ongratulations if you’re one of them! 

March 29 is National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day