Back in 1984, when Brent Barkin's father opened the independent retailer Shoe Station, he and his siblings spent many hours in the store, including playing hide-and-seek during off hours. Growing up in the store grew on the younger Barkin, who today runs the independent retail company that has 21 locations in five states and employs 500. "America was built by independent retailers like my father, who took chances on their ideas and invested in their cities," says Barkin, who today serves as president and CEO of Shoe Station. "Budding independent retailers make those initial cold calls to secure financing and put personal credit on the line to obtain leases and merchandise."
Independent Retailers Support Local Economies
"Independent local retailers contribute much of their income to the local economy," says Willy van Dooijeweert, CEO, founder and president of URBAN Traveler Store, which is located in Minnesota and sells travel goods. "The independent retailer benefits schools, road construction, fire and safety and much more," he says.
Supporting the local economy is critical to preserving communities, adds Andy Curry, who has owned Lamar Building Material Supply in Colorado for 30 years.
You must be the authority on all things related to your field, so that you can advise your customers. At the same time, if you don't have an answer, always be honest. —Diane Lloyde Roth, owner, L'Armoire
Benefits of Being an Independent Retailer
There are benefits and advantages to running an independent retail business that you just can't get in a bigger operation.
Owning an independent retail company gives you freedoms that you wouldn't get otherwise, according to Diane Lloyde Roth, owner of L'Armoire, a women's fashion boutique in Canaan, Connecticut.
"You get to create your own unique space and be super creative, as well as choose with whom you want to work and set your own hours," says Lloyde Roth. "You can also be a positive influence in your community and with your clients."
Agility is another major benefit of owning an independent retail operation, adds van Dooijeweert.
"Our company can react quickly to local trends, including weather conditions," he says. "Our offices are open for local customers to communicate with us and share concerns. We're therefore keenly aware of their wants and needs. At the same time, we can coach our staff on a daily, if not hourly basis, in order to customize our individualized customer approach."
Lloyde Roth agrees. "The independent retailer is the racing sloop of the world, and the big stores are the aircraft carriers. Independent retailers can tack in and out of the waves and quickly adjust if the retail climate changes, while larger retailers can't easily do that, but may instead end up in dead water."
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