The other day I was asked by an old friend what it was that I did for a living. Without even thinking, I responded “I run a specialty retail store.” My friend wasn’t sure what exactly a specialty retailer was. I was surprised at this, assuming that everyone knew the difference between the big boxes and specialty retailers. I figured that he wasn’t the only one and that I should present my thoughts on the subject.
There are a lot of options that people have today when buying just about anything. You can go to the Internet, the Big Box or the Specialty Retailer. I’ll discuss each of these and give you some real world examples outside of my own industry. At the end of this post, I will discuss what I believe that Mobile Edge brings to the table as a specialty retailer.
Believe it or not, I don’t think that all internet retailers are bad. There is a time and place for everything. I buy most of my office supplies online from Staples.com. I know exactly what I want (hard to screw up a Sharpie!), I know how to use it and the products that I order are generally non technical. The pricing is good. I don’t think that I have ever required any buying assistance. How many questions can I have about a file folder? Also, the products that I buy have an extremely low chance of being defective. I wouldn’t think of buying a camera from Staples.com although they sell them. If I want a camera, I want to walk into a store and try it out first. I want to ask questions and get answers from professionals.
Internet retailers are an alternative when you know exactly what you want, you will not need any support down the road and are focused only on price. Also important is whether or not the internet store will be there in the event of a problem or issue. Unscrupulous internet retailers can be out of business one day and pop up the next with a new site, new name and same shady deals. Before you plop down your hard earned cash, there needs to be a certain level of trust.
“Home Mart” (name deliberately changed… so I don’t get sued) is a Big Box. They stack them high and sell them deep. You can go to a Home Mart and pick something up and hold it and see if you really like it. The price is probably decent. Not internet pricing, but decent. But what if you have questions? Maybe you will get lucky and get to talk to the retiree who spent the first part of his life doing construction work. In that case, you will get some good, real world answers. If you don’t get that guy (or gal) you will probably get someone that picks up the box and reads it off to you. Doesn’t that tick you off? Can’t you read the box on your own???
So you go to Home Mart to get the parts that you need to fix your sink. You ask for everything that you need and leave with a handfull of parts. When you undo one of the fittings you noticed that you accidentally broke one of the “O” rings. Home Mart didn’t sell you any O rings. Back you go to buy a 14 cent item. I’d bet the local Mom and Pop hardware would have known that you run a 50% chance of busting the O rings on that job and would have sold you EVERYTHING that you needed. You would have avoided needing to trek back out for a 14 cent part, saved a lot of time and aggravation and got to enjoy more of the game on Saturday afternoon!
When dealing with a big box, most of the time you will have a warranty and a recourse if there is a problem (But let’s not forget about Circuit City and Tweeter though!). You will also get a decent price. What you will sacrifice is dealing with people that are true experts in their field. The advice you get will be marginal at best.
Palmerton Lumber is a specialty retailer… So is Dan’s Camera City. I patronize both companies. Most of the time, I pay about the same at one of these local retailers as I would at a big box. I know that sometimes I might pay a little more. I also know that when I go to either one of these places that I get expert advice. These people live and breathe what they do. Ask anyone at Palmerton Lumber for the right fasteners to attach your deck to your house and they will know. And you will sleep easy knowing that the deck is never going to fall down. Ask the first person that approaches you at Dan’s which lens will meet your needs and you can rest assured that their answer is the right one. These companies are specialty retailers. They focus on what they do best. They hire people that are passionate about their jobs. They go out of their way to help you and treat every customer like they are the most important person in the world.
Good specialty retailers will not only provide you with a place to go to buy something, but they will provide you with a great buying experience. How often do you hear someone say “Wow, those guys at Home Mart (or most Big Box retailers) really knew their stuff.” Probably not often. But I’d be willing to bet that you’ve heard a comment like that about Dan’s or Palmerton Lumber or some other locally owned specialty shop.
Last but not least, many specialty retailers are locally owned by people who give back to their communities. Some might sponsor Little League teams, dance competitions, school or church functions, etc. Patronizing these businesses allows them to continue to give back in whatever way they see fit.
Are there bad specialty retailers? Of course. There are bad politicians, bad clergy, bad mechanics, etc. There are definitely bad specialty retailers, but let me pose this question to you: How long do you think that a bad small business will last in a relatively small town? Not long. Maybe a year, 2 if they are lucky. Word will get around and soon nobody will patronize them. The truly good retailers will survive.
Mobile Edge as a Specialty Retailer
I know that Mobile Edge is not the cheapest place to buy a car radio or remote starter. I’d venture to guess that every person that has bought from us knows that walking in the door. Any deal can be beaten. Our customers buy from us because they are confident in the advice that we disperse and the products that we sell. They believe in our expertise and the quality of our installations. They know that we will be able to help them with any questions that they might have before and after the sale. We have a clean, well organized showroom and we keep a good inventory on hand. Most importantly, myself and my employees are passionate about what we do. You can hear that when you call and see it when you come into our store. Hopefully you can even see that in the information that we post freely on our website. Sure, we make a living doing this, but we do it because we love it.
Because of our position within the industry and the respect that we have from our vendors, we are able to pick what we feel are the very best products available. We only sell the good stuff. This combined with great customer service is why we were able to not only survive, but thrive in a small town for over 15 years. I guess word got around!!!
We invite you to stop in and experience what Mobile Edge is all about.