How small retailers survive among the big box stores

By Jeff Lawson – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The last weekend before the Christmas holiday is typically the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Based on what we saw at area stores and malls, this year was certainly no exception.

It is easy to forget that it is still the so called "Mom and Pop" retailers that are the heart and soul of the American retail economy. Saturday, we spoke with a few of those local retailers about what helps them to survive and even thrive.

With a smile, Ferrill Alman remembers when he and his wife Rose opened their Gulfport clothing store back in 1983. They took a risk, and it worked.

Their store was packed with customers when we stopped by Saturday afternoon. Alman says it's all about finding your niche.

"It's being able to offer something to somebody they can't get anywhere else," Alman said.  "There is something else as well, that all small retailers have to remember. We can give the service, the personal service. If we don't have something, we will try to order it."

It is that same philosophy, about personal service, that the other small retailers we spoke with, believe in as well.

"We intend to help the customer in any way we can, so that we will stand out from the department store," Rena Dukes said.

Dukes works for Heritage House Gifts, just a few feet from Ferrill Alman's Gulfport store. Owner Deann Stafford has been in the business for more than two decades. To accomplish that, you have to be doing a lot of things right.

Susan Oustalet would certainly agree with that. After 28 years of owning her own gift shop,  she also knows about the importance of that one on one service.

"We want to make sure the customer is happy, the customer is pleased and gets what he wants," Oustalet said.

Each of our small retailers want people to realize that having your own business is hard work. It takes time, committment, and no matter how successful you are, they all say, don't ever sit back and think you've got it made.commitmenthaps Ferrill Alman summed it up best when he said a small retailer should never get complacent. He added, complacency can drive you out of business in no time.

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