Niche Marketing – What Do You Sell?

On a couple of the gift basket forums, there have been several discussions about not only surviving, but thriving in today’s economy.  Once Father’s Day is behind us, there aren’t a whole lot of “holidays” to market gift baskets for.  As a result, unless you have steady, loyal corporate customers buying gifts for their business, gift basket sales usually are slower during the summer months.  So the question has been asked:  “What do you sell besides gift baskets?”

Several of the forum members have generously shared ways that they have diversified in order to survive.  Through the years, this question has been asked and answered many times on the various gift basket forums.  Sharing experiences is a valuable way for businesses in different parts of the country to get ideas and rejuveniate their business.

But…there is also a downside to this.  What works in one part of the country or even in the town down the road may not work for you or for me.  Diversification is important in any business.  Each of us, however, must do our own research and find our own niche.  A niche that is popular on the internet for sales may not work at all in your local neighborhood market and vice versa.

In my local newspaper “The Arizona Daily Sun” today, this same question was asked of some neighborhood convenience stores and produced some surprising answers.  And it demonstrates what I am trying to say very well.

Most convenience stores depend on the sale of gasoline, liquor, and late-night snacks in order to survive.  But about half a mile from me is Sunnyside Market.  Through the years that I have lived here, I’ve always thought of it as a gas station with a small attached market.  I’ve bought gas there occasionally but never spent any money in the market. As a matter of fact, I’ve wondered how the business survived as there were cheaper gas stations not too far away.

This business was sold a few months ago and the new owners knew a secret that we all need to learn.  Find out what your customers want and need and provide it to them. 

Even though gas costs us drivers a lot of money, between the taxes, transportation, and the middle men, the station owners have to sell a lot of it to keep much of that  money.  One of the first things the new owners of this business  did was to cap off the gas tanks for a trial period to see if it would have any effect on the grocery sales.  He reported “When we stopped it for a month, it had no increase or decrease in our store’s business.”  He also eliminated the sale of alcohol and closed the store by 10 p.m. each night.

Instead this tiny market is focusing on selling what the local neighborhood residents want: juicy, crunchy pickles.  “People come in for the pickles,” he reports.  “Hundred and hundreds of pickles are sold here every week.”  Sodas are the other big seller, rivaling the sales of other larger corporate supermarkets. 

What did he add to the inventory that failed to sell?  Surprisingly, it was Hot dogs.

This little neighborhood market isn’t trying to compete with the big Safeway Grocery down the street or the large gas station with a corporate name a few blocks away.  Instead he determined what his customers wanted and needed and are surviving by supplying it.  Sure the investment in the hot dog warming machine didn’t pay off but the pickles and sodas make up for it.

I’m telling you this story because this is what we have to do to survive.  Don’t depend on what others sell.  The convenience market, on a main street a few streets over, sells lots of gas and hot dogs.  Do your own research.  Ask your customers what they want.  Invest in a small amount of inventory and try it.  Isn’t that what being a Creative Entrepreneur is all about?

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