Taking customers' opinions into account and meeting their needs has everything to do with how successful a business will be.
I was reading an article in BusinessWeek a few days ago about how independent grocery stores are holding things together even while more "Big Box" stores open around them. The Richmond, Virginia-based grocery store, Ukrop's, is one such independent that began nearly 70 years ago, has expanded to 28 shops, and is considered Virginia's #1 supermarket!
Ukrop's has thrived in the midst of big grocery stores because they've been quick to innovate and have stayed ahead by offering services and a selection of products that the big stores can't compete with. They were one of the first markets in the country to offer gourmet ready-made meals (its main kitchen cooks some 250 different items), they operate a central bakery that supplies all of its stores with ready-to-heat and serve baked goods, and several locations feature the in-store restaurant Ukrop's Grill & Cafe. Can you imagine Costco or Walmart competing with all of that?
Independent stores like Ukrop's are standing their ground by being flexible, introducing new offers quickly, and engaging on a more personal level with their customers. And they're on top of the game when it comes to carving out a niche in the market.
Riesbeck Food Markets out of Ohio, is one of the only independent grocers left standing in the 100-mile radius where it operates, after a Walmart Supercenter popped up 5 years ago. Riesbeck Food Markets is an 80-year-old grocery store started by current owner Richard Riesbeck's grandma! Riesbeck says that instead of trying to match other stores' prices, they concentrate on customer service, cleanliness, fast checkouts, and high-quality products. These are definitely things you can't find at "Big Box" giants.
Other independents concentrating on customer service and community are Gardner's Market of Miami. They support local farmers by sponsoring a farmer's market in front of their Pinecrest location on Sunday mornings from January to April. Draeger's, a 3-store northern California company, caters to the upscale shopper by stocking a wine shop of 3,000 varieties. Two of the three stores offer a housewares department of topnotch cookware and a selection of over 5,000 cookbooks!
With products, services, and community involvement like these stores offer, it's no wonder that people still crave intimate, crafted-for-your-needs grocery stores! Congratulations to these grocers for listening to what people want!