Why you can compete with big retailers

The news today that John Lewis has announced its most prosperous Christmas sales season ever will come as a double-edged sword to many smaller retailers. Optimists hope it signals the loosening of consumer purse strings, a trend obviously much-desired for the year ahead. Others will begrudge the bitter pill of seeing yet another household name thrive while independents choke.

Size, you see, brings with it unique opportunities small business just can't afford: highly competitive pricing, a heavy assault of TV and print advertising, and the ability to offer so many product lines that a Christmas shopper needn't go anywhere else.

But size also brings cumbersomeness. British superstores may be able to bullishly dominate a space, but their leaner counterparts are more nimble. Small businesses aren't held back by the sludge of bureaucracy. It doesn't take them six months to finalise a decision on stocking a new product, or to do a special offer, or to react to a micro-trend. Small businesses can innovate and adopt something new in a day, an hour.

And small businesses have a face. How many John Lewis customers would recognise chairman Charlie Mayfield if he walked past them in the street? Do you think he knows even five of his clients' names? He's a fantastic retailer, granted. But you have an edge whose sharpness should not be underestimated. You are personal, caring, face-to-face and you can react to what your customers want immediately.

When you feel the sword of a big-name competitor slicing at your sides, use that impeccable customer service and innovativeness that only a small business is capable of to hold the fort and prove your fighting spirit.

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