If you own a small grocery store, you inevitably have to compete with major national and regional chains. Your store doesn't have the same buying power or clout with vendors as the majors, but that doesn't mean you can't successfully compete on other factors. Establishing a loyal client base means your store doesn't have to compete on price. Offer products not easily found in chain stores and, of course, provide the best service.
Specialized grocery stores offer products that the big chains don't. Organic grocery stores offer only organic fruits and vegetables, grains, meat and dairy. While a big store may have an organic aisle or two, the specialized organic store has thousands of these products. Other specializations include wheat-free and sugar-free products, gourmet meats or live fish and shellfish. For example, in a major city in the Southwest, one such store offers tanks of live fish, several kinds of crab, shrimps and lobsters. The fish is selected from the tank and cleaned. The seafood is packaged to stay alive on the customer's journey home. Several markets in New York offer live poultry, rabbits and goats. The livestock is slaughtered, skinned or de-feathered on site and packaged for the customer. The live animals are bought by those who prefer fresh meat and those whose religions specify how the animals must be slaughtered.
Farmers' markets offer local fresh produce but require an additional stop, which may be inconvenient for customers. A grocery store that offers primarily local produce, meats, cheeses, breads and other products along with standard grocery store items could develop a loyal customer following. Because the produce is local, it most likely is much fresher than that in a chain grocery store. More of a variety can be offered. For example, in summer, tomatoes don't have to be limited to three or four kinds but can include a wide variety from tiny current tomatoes to heirloom giants. Another benefit to customers is that there may be less of a chance of contamination with local products than those shipped in from foreign countries.
Cuisines around the world require specific ingredients. A well-stocked grocery store that caters to Asian cooks is a competitive advantage for a store with an Asian population nearby. For example, Korean cooks require kimchee, a fermented cabbage pickle. Mexican cooking requires a dozen different chiles, from mild jalapenos to extremely hot habaneros, as well as special cheeses, vegetables, spices and condiments. Nopales -- prickly pear cactus paddles -- are a staple of Mexican food and rarely found in chain grocery stores.
Super service goes beyond offering carryout and friendly staff. Staff members should be knowledgeable about what types of products are carried, where the products are located in the store and the ingredients in products made on premises. Special orders should be accommodated with minimal or no aditional charges. One grocery store offers in-store child care for shoppers. The area is monitored by camera so parents can check on their children as the parent shops in the store. Another store has an area with comfortable chairs, a TV, complimentary coffee and cookies and an assortment of magazines.