Corner Shop culture resonates more than price for super-savvy consumers

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Photograph taken for Upavon Village Web site. Whilst the recession has created a nation of price hunters as many scramble to save money on products and services, companies with a longer term strategy of retaining and attracting customers should instead look to provide first class customer service. Business for Ma and Pa stores in small and large American towns is, apparently, booming again as consumers opt for good service and people who are helpful.

It’s no surprise that this period of economic uncertainty has borne an army of bargain hunters, but it has also created a more competitive business environment, meaning customers are now looking for better service for their money from the companies they do business with. In fact, even in a negative economy, customer experience is a high priority for the new breed of super-savvy consumers, with 60 per cent often or always paying more for a better experience and 59 per cent willing to try a new brand or company for a better service experience.

Whilst the economic climate remains challenging, the attitude towards ‘value for money’ has changed. For many consumers, the emphasis seems to have shifted in the direction of value and what value means rather than just selecting the cheapest deal.

Many people now view value for money as including the entire service they receive, and most are frustrated with the money-saving approach taken by companies who outsource communication to overseas call centers.

Localism also is part of this equation and many of the environmentally conscious consumers are looking to give their High Street a boost rather than traipsing to the large, often out of town, supermarkets and even hypermarkets, where customer service, if existent, is distant.

Good customer service with friendly staff who know me and what my requirements are in a store to me, as well as to the new breed of consumer, is of greater importance than price. One of the many reasons also that I like shopping in Charity Shops and the local high street stores rather than at the big impersonal places.

Such stores once were the mainstay of the local trade and everything way purchased, in the main, via such independent local shops in our villages and towns and the areas where we lived in the cities.

It would appear that we may be, and heavens be praised, are on the way back to such small independent retailers in the high street and elsewhere and that people will go there rather than to the big stores.

If I go to my local hardware store and want something and he hasn't got it he will, generally, offer to get it in for me by next week or such, and I will rather give someone who is prepared to do that my business than a faceless corporation in whose stores, when they haven't got something you may just get a “sorry, we are out of stock and don't know when we will be getting it back in”.

Alone for the sake of the Planet we also need to return to the old-fashioned, even though may be run rather high-tech, corner shop and for groceries even the kind of store where I can go and buy everything, almost, loose. It once was the case and it should be possible again despite all the health and hygiene claims.

Yes, it is convenient, especially when you are working all week, to go to a place where you can do all your grocery shopping in one place and even buy a cooking pot, or a paintbrush or a book, CD, DVD, at the same time but... the question is... how good is that for the Planet?

Let's really hope that the Ma and Pa stores are going to make a proper comeback and that rather yesterday than tomorrow.

© 2012