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The Hidden Gem

The Situation in Logan, OH

Logan, OH (pictured above) is a small town in Southeastern Ohio that has a population of about 7000.  The local residents named the town in honor of Chief Logan of the Mingo Indian tribe.  He and his band lived in this area at the time of European-American settlement. Ohio Governor Thomas Worthington established the community in 1816.[8]

During the twentieth century, Logan emerged as a major tourist destination. Today, many locals find employment in tourism-related businesses. Numerous residents operate bed and breakfasts or work in hotels or restaurants to meet the needs of tourists visiting the Hocking Hills State Park. Numerous natural wonders exist in Hocking County and in the park, including the Cantwell Cliffs, Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, and Rock House, drawing tens of thousands of tourists every year. With a population of 6,704 people, Logan was Hocking County’s largest community in 2000.

The Complication

However, 20 years later, things are a little bit different.  On 10/24/2001, Walmart opened a Supercenter in Logan, which put a huge strain on the local businesses.  Over the last 10 years that I’ve been in Logan, I’ve seen a plethora of small businesses start up with optimism, only to close a few months later.  

We’ve all heard this story time and time again.   It even has a name now – the Walmart Effect.

What Is the Walmart Effect?

According to investopedia.com, The Walmart Effect is a term used to refer to the economic impact felt by local businesses when a large company like Walmart (WMT) opens a location in the area. The Walmart Effect usually manifests itself by forcing smaller retail firms out of business and reducing wages for competitors’ employees. Many local businesses oppose the introduction of Walmart stores into their territories for these reasons.

Logan, OH is a shining example of a town that has been decimated by the local Walmart.

 

Question - How Do We Save Logan?

So, how do we fight this good business fight with the 800 lb. gorilla in our town?   Well, to put it bluntly, with our gloves OFF.  

 

Answer

So, how do we fight this good business fight with the 800 lb. gorilla in our town?   Well, to put it bluntly, with our gloves OFF.

Here are a few myths about Walmart that might help you (the small business owner) sleep at night:

Walmart is the cheapest solution – FALSE

According to Marco Terry in his blog ‘How to Beat Walmart if You Own a Small Business’, he says 

“Walmart is a business. And, like every business, its objective is to gain market share, increase revenues, and generate returns to its walmart price comparisonshareholders. They have their methods. And, like them or hate them, Walmart is very good at what they do. The fact that they are one of the most successful companies and have lots of satisfied customers is proof that they are great at what they do. No use or sense in denying it or complaining about it.

Fortunately, they are not perfect either.

I believe that most people think that Walmart is the cheapest store for everything. Walmart certainly tries to promote that image in its ads. However, my recent price comparison experiences prove that this is not always the case. For many items, I found that other retailers had either cheaper products, a better value – or both. That has been my experience with Walmart when shopping for tables, computers, and flat-screen TVs. Don’t believe me? Look at the price comparison on the right. In the case of that specific TV, Walmart is a whopping 24.50%  more expensive than Best Buy. That is just one example, and I have seen many.

Sourcing options are more available

Guess who can use alibaba now?  Just about anyone who has a business and is willing to buy in bulk.  Oh, and they are going all in on the American small businesses.  Read more about that here.

Digital Marketing (SEM)

Now here is my favorite thing to talk about.  Now that we live in a COMPLETELY digital society, it only makes sense to advertise your business online.  Find out what channels you have the most success in reaching your customers (or potential customers) and talk about how awesome your shop is.  When they show up to your coffee shop on vacation, serve them up with the best damn latte they’ve ever had and keep the likes, shares, and conversions coming.  

The key to marketing is all about consistency, but also trying new things and learning as you go.  Learning is one of my favorite things to do (in fact, I’m currently enrolled in a nano-degree program with Udacity to sharpen some of my digital marketing skills and concepts).  The more you learn about your audience, the easier it will be to market to them.  Take everything you know about them and use that knowledge to serve them up ads that are specifically tailored to their needs, wants, and interests.  

 
Michael Hunter

Michael Hunter

Digital Marketer

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