At some point, almost all small business owners ask themselves the same question, “How can we compete with a big box store?”

Megastores like Walmart or Costco present significant competition for small, local retailers and shops. When one opens up down the road from your store, it can be scary.

But just because big box stores have more resources doesn’t mean that all customers will come to them. You can compete with a big box store. You just need to know how. Here are a few tips and strategies for standing out, keeping your customers, and even attracting new ones.

Highlight Your Value (Instead of Your Prices)  

When you compete with big box stores, you compete with big box prices. Large scale retailers can charge lower prices for their goods because they can buy their products in bulk from wholesalers. It’s difficult for smaller shops to compete with a big box store’s price points — so you shouldn’t try. Instead, focus on showing your value and differentiators in other ways. Promote what makes your business better, not cheaper, than your competitors.

Get Personal

Big box retailers churn customers in and out of their stores all day, so they don’t have the time or resources to get to know the people that come through their doors. But maybe you do. To compete with a big box store, differentiate yourself by creating a personal experience with your customers. Get to know them. Set up rewards and loyalty programs that help you learn about their purchases and better serve them. Learn their names and make them feel at home while in your store.

Create a Unique In-store Experience

Customers don’t visit big box retailers for an experience. They want to get in and out of these stores as fast as possible. So, cater to the opposite experience at your store. Create a space that your customers can enjoy. When setting up your showroom or store, focus on the five senses and create an immersive experience that guests go to for the atmosphere as much as the products.

For tips on turning your store into a customer destination, snag our free ebook How to Provide Exceptional Customer Experiences For Your Retail Store.

Host Events

Attract customers to your store and engage with them while they are there by hosting in-store events. Workshops, demo days, fashion shows, and customer appreciation events provide extra value for your customers while differentiating you from big box stores. It also gives you an opportunity to get to know your customers and learn about what they would like to see in your store.

Focus on Product Presentation

Products in big box stores are usually displayed starkly as items on a shelf. Don’t recreate this experience in your store. Instead, create interesting and immersive ways for customers to experience your products. Use product demo videos and set out samples so customers can get to know your products better. Build creative displays that are based on themes and pair together products that compliment each other.

Provide Convenience

A problem with big box retail stores is their physical size. Customers have to wade through aisles and aisles of goods to find what they need. This makes stopping in for a quick item a big inconvenience.  Differentiate your store by showing how you make shopping easy. Provide convenience. Offer to take customer orders or place items at the register to simplify the shopping experience for your busy customers.

Offer Superior Sales Support

A small retailer has a great opportunity to compete with a big box store when it comes to the sales experience. Big box retailers have salespeople that are often only there to help you help you once you have decided on a product. They don’t take the time to listen to your needs and budget and match you with the best product. Use this to your advantage as a small business. Provide an expert sales team that can connect with customers and help them find the perfect product for their needs and budget.

Optimize Your Store for Local Searches  

One area where you can compete with a big box store is local search. You can optimize your business’s website so it shows when someone searches for a store in your category while near your location. Search engines typically show local business options when a user looks up a term like “women’s clothing store.” So you can compete with big name stores by setting up a Google Business page and getting your website to show to local searchers.

Build Social Media Buzz

Just as you can compete with a big box store in search, you can compete with them on social media. Set up profiles for your business on Facebook, FourSquare, and Yelp, and encourage your shoppers to check-in and share updates while in your store (by offering promos, contests, and giveaways). And, use your social media pages to highlight the personal side of your business by regularly sharing photos of your store, staff, customers (with their permission), events, and products.

Get Involved with the Community

The local movement has encouraged more communities to get out and support locally-owned establishments in their communities. People are shifting toward choosing local stores over big box retailers. Embrace this sense of community by showing support both ways. Get your name out in the community by sponsoring local events or teams to show that you support the neighborhood, all while raising awareness about your business and doing some good for your community.


When you’re a small business, few things can be scarier than a big box store moving into your neighborhood. But, you don’t have to live in the shadows of mega-retailers.

You can compete with a big box store when you differentiate and promote your business by focusing on the personal and unique values that only a small retailer can provide.

Get more tips for making your retail store stand out by downloading our free ebook, How to Provide Exceptional Customer Experiences For Your Retail Store.