Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Independants Versus The Big Box

I have always been big on supporting Independent Retailers. Mom & Pop's are our backbone. I too was an owner of a physical retail store called Southern Charm Home Decor so I really had a stake in people supporting the little guy. Sadly, I had to close my doors in Jan. Business was too slow and the rent just couldn't be paid any longer. I am happy to have my online store and sell mostly the 20x20 painted wood picture frames by Magnolia Lane. I wanted to see where all my customers had gone so I began asking friends I know and listening to where fellow bloggers were shopping.

Mostly I hear about Hobby Lobby & Home Goods. So off to Hobby Lobby I went. The closest one is about 30 min. away. I was shocked when I went into the Hobby Lobby, I haven't been in one in over ten years. Boy has it changed. There were home decor accents everywhere I turned!! And they were all 50% off. I have gone back each week for over a month and each week all of the home decor accents were 50% off. Folks, there is no way possible for an independent retailer to compete with that. Here in Woodstock, GA just about all of the independent gift store/home decor shops have closed their doors. Even the downtown Woodstock area has only a couple of Gift Shops/Home Decor shops left!! Where were the customers going that some long time well established shops were having to close. I knew it wasn't the economy as that area is quite affluent. Yep, I found a Hobby Lobby about 10 minutes from downtown Woodstock and I'd bet my bottom dollar that now that it is so chic to be thrifty it has gotten around town to check out the Hobby Lobby.

Our wounded economy has really changed the way business is done and how pricing is managed. Who can blame the consumer for going to the place with the lowest prices? Not me! Hobby Lobby for instance has so much buying power that they get much lower prices than the independent retailers. For example I saw some Golf themed hurricane candle holders (my hubby has a pair in his office) at Hobby Lobby last Monday. I sold that same pair at my store by the same wholesaler. I purchased them wholesale for $15 plus I had to pay 15% shipping. Standard markup at retail stores (independents & not clothing!! clothing has a much higher markup usually) is 50%. So I purchased them for $15. Doubled, the retail price made them $29.99. Retailers try to get their money back for shipping which would have made them $32.99. Sometimes you just have to eat the shipping and I did for this product and sold it at $29.99. Hobby Lobby had them regularly priced at $19.99 and they were 50% off and selling for $10.

$10??? Are you kidding me? Customers can buy home decor retail for less than what independent retailers are buying the exact same stuff for at wholesale!!!!!!!!! I paid $15 plus shipping and Susan Q. Smith can buy it out the door for $10? How does Hobby Lobby even pull this off? It's genius! Why would you ever go to an independent gift store ever again? Items that used to be exclusive to the independents are now available at the big boxes. Big boxes are slashing prices and have coupons galore! Why go to the gift store on the corner to buy a Lolita martini glass for a girlfriend when you can go to Macy's with your 20% off coupon and buy the same glass for less? I could go on!! I am totally in love with the Hobby Lobby now. I am scared to death to drive to the Home Goods that is in Cumming, GA. I hear many wonderful things about our new Home Goods. I tell ya, I just can't imagine after my visiting the Hobby Lobby in Woodstock and Cumming why any of the independent retailers are even still open for business. It is just coo coo to spend double the money anyplace else. I recognized many of the items at Hobby Lobby as items I sold in my own little shop that I miss dearly. I know customer service and relationships count for much buy hey, nobody mistreated me at the Hobby Lobby. Why should I pay $29.99 for the vinyl wall lettering I've had my eye on when I can go pay $15 at Hobby Lobby for the exact same product by the exact same manufacturer? I fear the big boxes are setting up the independents for failure. I love love small little gift stores and their fun events. But hey, half price is half price!

Does anybody have an opinion of switching over to the big boxes instead of shopping the independents? Does anybody think all this price slashing is going to change retail pricing permanently? I wonder......... I have dropped the prices of my 20x20 picture frames as I no longer have a physical store to support but boy oh boy. The big guys sure aren't making it easy for the small fry. What's your opinion? Where do you buy your home decorating accents?


Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Jennifer, you hit it on the head. I hardly ever buy at small gift stores at all, just because of that reason. Now granted, they do sometimes have different & better products than the bigger stores do, but when you can find almost the exact or THE exact thing in a big store, you would be crazy to pay more. I have a HL just a couple miles from my house & I'm always shopping the 50% off sales in there & if it's not on sale this, week then I wait til next & it probably will be then. That's just the way they do things. I have shopped at your HL in Woodstock many times too, that was the one I went to all the time when I lived in GA (grew up in Marietta, my house was off Bells Ferry Rd), so we would have been neighbors. Wasn't bloggin then though! So sorry you had to close your shop. I just love the little downtown area of Woodstock, it's always been so quaint.

Thanks for stopping by & leaving a note on the chicken. Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of grocery stores over here in B'ham, not even Kroger, can you believe it. I love Publix & shop their sales for the most part & usually buy my meats at Brunos or Winn-Dixie (we do still have a few of those), but I fear they will both be out of business soon. They just can't compete with Walmart or Publix for the most part. I only shop the other stores for meat specials & thankfully Publix does run good BOGO sales. I do go to Walmart for staple goods, but don't buy our meat there.

Rona's Home Page said...

I do try to shop the small online stores. I feel I can control my spending more online then in the retail store.
But recently my husband and I have re-discovered Micheal's Arts and Crafts. I was able to purchase some very nice faux floral plants for under $10.
Yes, many of us that do have some disposable income are also looking for the bargain. It doesn't always make sense to pay more for the same item.
Great post.

Kelly said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! I love your book cases! Turned out beautiful!

Misti of Studio M Designs said...

Jennifer, it is so hard to turn away from the big box stores. Now that you have seen Hobby Lobby you really must venture over to Homegoods in Cumming. Your life will never be the same. SORRY. You can sign up online for Hobby Lobby's weekly sale. They send automatic emails of the sale every week, and usually include a 40% off one item coupon.

You know I loved your store, but how do you compete with Hobby Lobby? They don't just have the 50% now with the bad economy, it's always been like that!


An Accomplished Woman said...

Great post. We have a beautiful little "mall" with independent vendors and I shop there for "special" stuff. Unusual items for holidays and for special wedding gifts. But for general decorating, I go to HB or Home goods. I also love your shelves before and after. It really turned out pretty.


Jenelle said...

Hobby lobby is (in)conveniently right on my way home, so I stop by several times/week on average. You can print a 40% off coupon before you go and use it on any item (one per customer per day), so I always make sure to have one with me.

I also visit Michael's and Joann pretty often during my lunch hour.

The catch is that I go to these stores to purchase arts and crafts supplies. I try to resist buying home decor items there. I love searching Etsy and finding the perfect item. It feels more special than buying it at a store-any store.

When I buy something on Etsy, I know I'm supporting fellow artsy people, whether they make their entire living selling their craft or whether they just enjoy crafting and are trying to sell some of their creations. I know that when I buy something, I'm buying from a person. And it's handmade. And I'm telling that person, "Hey- I loved what you made sooo much that it is worth parting with my money for!" And that's a big deal.