Friday, February 11, 2011

Competitor Closing

Our local competitor closed this week. I've written before about this, but I have to admit in retrospect that I handled it badly. I took it personally. Mostly it was personal because it was made that way by one of the original owners, who was very open about their desire to leech our customers and bury us. He was reading my blog, so in the spirit of openness, he told me their strategy. He suggested a plan in which they would carry all the hobby games like Magic and D&D, leaving us to carry the other stuff you know, the chess sets and toys. As if. There were other issues too, but it honestly got under my skin and I ended up acting poorly. It wasn't throwing bricks through their window poorly, but the animosity should have ended with me and it didn't. He ended up getting bought out by his partners shortly thereafter, but the animosity persisted and windows of opportunity opened and closed for me to make it better. The die was cast and it continued even after the store was sold to someone else (this all happened in about 18 months).

As some will tell you, success is the best revenge, but really, store owners generally think they've got the needs of their customers in mind. When I first opened a store, I was small and in the sphere of a local giant who I thought had lost their spark. Who's to say my new competitor didn't feel the same way about me? Some competitors don't even know I exist or don't see me as competition. Some competitors could be friends now or in the future. In other words, getting all worked up about competition is only self-defeating. It's in my mind and it gets me nowhere with my business. I was just causing myself pain and suffering and stressing out my staff. Success may be the best revenge, but I think an "abiding impartiality" will keep you happy and sane. In other words, let it go.

I expect more competition in the future. In fact, there is a feeling of strategic loss with this competing store gone. It turned out to be generally so inoffensive that it likely scared off bigger, more dangerous sharks that might have considered opening up shop nearby. It also funneled overly competitive card gamers away from us, who tend to drive away both the fun and the sales. I still believe that my best strategy is to look forward and constantly assess the needs of customers instead of looking backwards in the rear view mirror at competitors. Next time, however, I'll try to practice some of that abiding impartiality and not get so worked up over this stuff.

Also, I hope if you're reading this and have a store in mind, you consider one of the many under-served communities rather than wasting time and immense capital on an unnecessary venture. As I've said many times, you build a retail business on your own steam. There is very little "stealing" of customers, just as there is very little pick up when a competitor fails. If it were a winner take all business, there would be many more bricks thrown through windows. A lost business is a loss for the community and very little gain for its competitors.

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