Surviving Big Box Businesses

Surviving Big Box Businesses

Chamber hosts small business seminar.

Marc Willson tells business owners on how to survive in the ‘big box” business era business owners on how to survive in the ‘big box” business era.

Marc Willson tells business owners on how to survive in the ‘big box” business era business owners on how to survive in the ‘big box” business era. Photo by Gerald A. Fill/The Gazette

— Marc Willson, a consultant with 40 years of small business owner and consulting experience, addressed how to compete with “big box” companies at Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce-hosted seminar on July 17.

Currently, he travels to cities and counties throughout Virginia speaking to small business owners on business strategies. Attendees included an aspiring petfood store distributor, restaurant owner, architect and energy consultant.

Willson offered a long list of ideas and tips. In the Mount Vernon-Lee Route 1 corridor there are two Walmarts, a Target, a Petsmart and Petco, and a soon to arrive Costco, among other large retail establishments.

Here is a snapshot of Wllson’s survival tips for small businesses confronted with the presence of large store chains in their service area.

Willson: “How do you compete with a Walmart?”

“You don’t; you differentiate.”

He offered five basic high tech survival strategies for all small businesses:

First, establish a website on the internet. This would include a home page with photos; a 30-second video; photos of the products or services offered, and a statement of what the small business can do that no one else can do as well.

Second, include in the website who you are; why you are in business, and a photo of the owner or staff. Build rapport with customers.

Third, a content page with more photos of your products or services.

Fourth, a detailed description of how to find and contact your small business

Fifth, create a businesss Facebook page. Post on it twice a week. The purpose is to create a platform to gain customer loyalty.

Willson closed this portion of his presentation by saying: “Word of mouth is the most important method of communication; create a human connection; access the Trip Advisor to register your business; register a QR Code; one for the Home page and one for the Facebook site.”

Other suggestions he offered in the second part of his presentation included a list of basic good business practices and common sense strategies designed to differentiate the small business from the big box department store:

  • Pick the product or service that a big box store doesn’t carry.
  • Listen to customers 80 percent of the time to be a successful salesperson.
  • Pamper your customers.
  • Take good care of your employees.
  • Develop a business plan that is a working living document that is constantly under review and revision.
  • Be adaptable and quick to respond to the consumer’s needs.
  • Collaborate with existing businesses in buying products.
  • Convince your customers that by spending locally with a small business the local economy will benefit; in contrast, big box stores typically send revenue to corporate offices out of state.
  • Establish convenience — make the shopping experience easy.
  • Be visible and involved in your community.

There are 29 different small business development centers in Virginia; nationally there are 1,400. Locally, numerous training opportunities for existing and aspiring small business owners exist. They are listed on the small business centers website at