The small retail shop

The small retail shop

The small retail shop

So far as the small retail shop is concerned, the same qualities of speed, service and speciality apply. The retailer who specializes in the type of goods not readily available from large stores and multiples and who provides a speedy service to his customers can operate profitably despite the attractions of the High Street giants because he is not in competition with them. The ladies fashion shop specializing in garments that appeal to a minority section of the local community or the do-it-yourself shop, carrying a wide range of materials, tools and equipment, offer exclusivity that the department stores and super-markets do not wish to match. If this facility, backed with a friendly personal service, is exploited fully, a small business can be operated very successfully.

Every new business venture should be based on an exploitable idea for the essence of a commercial speculation is to exploit a situation or circumstance and to make money in the process. Here are some examples of exploitable conditions and circumstances that have put many small enterprises on the road to success:

1. The possession of some special personal skill, knowledge or interest that is connected with a certain type of commodity or service.

2. The discovery of a particular need for certain types of goods or services that is not being fulfilled adequately by existing producers or traders.

3. The recognition of a better way to satisfy a particular need for certain goods or services.

4. The realization of a better way to promote the sales of certain types of existing products or services.

The needs of the general public are changing, slightly but constantly, every year. Popular tastes and interests fluctuate. Every minor change in the way of life of the community creates a need for new or modified products. This means that there is always scope for the small manufacturer to bring on to the market something that is new even though its novelty may be no more than a modified design that gives the product greater appeal to the eye, greater usefulness, or enables it to be sold more cheaply.

The small producer, with his facility for improvisation, his flexibility, his ability to produce special, short runs economically, often has far greater scope than his bigger rivals to innovate. The proof of this statement lies in the experience of the past twenty years because most of the new product ideas developed over the past two decades were originated by small manufacturing firms. This is one of the most important features of the small business and the reason why a thriving small business community is so vital to the industrial health of the nation.

Innovation is not confined to the invention and development of totally new products. Another means to an exploitable situation is the discovery of a better way to satisfy an existing need. The humble umbrella, for example, has been with us for generations. it has afforded protection (of sorts) to the user's head and shoulders during rain. The trouble with the conventional umbrella always has been that if it is held sufficiently low down to ward off a heavy shower, one cannot see where one is going. Hold it high enough to steer a path down a busy street and the raindrops hit one straight in the eye!

One day, someone had the bright idea of making the umbrella cover from a transparent plastic material (PVC). The user of this new device now can have his head and shoulders inside the umbrella, keeping dry, while-with nimble movement-he seeks to avoid collision with conventional umbrella holders coming at him blindly from all directions.

Nor is the use of innovation to achieve an exploitable idea restricted to the making of goods. Novelty can be used to find a better way of selling them.

As a glance at old photographs or paintings of Victorian and Edwardian days will testify, our great-grandmothers considered no home complete without its collection of indoor plants from the aspidistra to the 'Busy Lizzy'. But houseplants needed large, heavy earthenware pots to contain them. The housewives of the '30s and '40s had no place for them in their modern flats and semi-detacheds. For nearly two generations, the indoor plant business was moribund.

What gave it hew life was the moulded plastic pot. It was lightweight and therefore large numbers of potted plants could be transported from the growers' nurseries to shops at an economical cost. It had a degree of flexibility, which meant it could withstand a reasonable amount of rough handling without breaking. Furthermore, it could be moulded in terracotta or a range of bright colours to appeal to the eye. But its particular advantage was that it could be produced more cheaply in vastly greater numbers than the old clay pot. Because of these advantages, houseplants again became popular. A gift trade in potted plants developed for birthdays, Mother's Day and anniversaries. A better way had been found to package and therefore to sell indoor plants with the result that the growers were able to penetrate a mass market. This unexceptional example illustrates how new thinking, when applied to the design, manufacture or presentation of an existing product, can foster new or increased demand.

What next? - Customer Visits and Reports

Please Note

The Trade is, of course, a major source of product ideas. All manufacturers examine, with avid interest, the new products of their competitors.