So far, summer hasn't been kind to the hard-hit retail industry. Excluding sales of cars and gasoline, retail sales were down 0.2% in June, the fourth monthly decline in a row.
It seems there's only one place Americans have been shopping in record numbers: the local dollar store. According to the Nielsen Co., the average household made 13 trips to a dollar store in 2008, compared with 11 in 2001.
A store whose very name promises low prices clearly has some advantages during a recession. But major chains have also made important changes to increase sales momentum. The stereotypical image of a dollar store used to be a haphazardly arranged, bare-bones shop filled with no-name overstocks. Now, they're upgrading and positioning themselves as affordable convenience stores, a strategy that has attracted more shoppers despite the brutal retail environment.
The lesson for small business? It pays to tweak your image along with the times. The key is to maintain your core identity while modifying your product lineup to lure newcomers.
Consider one of the largest chains, Family Dollar Stores (Stock Quote: FDO)