I am organizing a sensory trend excursion in Williamsburg for a large group of people and I recently called a few independent coffee roasters with retail shops and bakeries to arrange a store visit. I wanted to purchase an iced drink and a pastry for 25 people and have the owner speak about the history of the shop and what makes it unique. One would think this is a great business opportunity; a shop owner could introduce interesting products to potential new customers.
To my surprise, apparently I was wrong. Not 1 but 7, independent retailers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn turned me down. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief that they walked away from guaranteed business.Their reasons were:
- “We can’t accommodate you since we cater to our local customers and it would be disruptive to our shop.”
- “We can’t accommodate you; it just doesn’t work. Our local customers get upset if we reserve tables.”
- “We can’t accommodate you. It will interfere with our business flow and we are not staffed for that many customers, but you can come in and order independently.”
- “We are too small and we can’t fit you.”
- “We always keep the focus on our loyal clients and maintaining their shopping experience and don’t want to detract them.”
- “We work very hard to accommodate and please our neighbors and it is not in our capacity to be able to please the market.”
I thought for sure in this economy and competitive business environment, finding an independent retail store to accommodate us would be an easy task. I’m not sure what the store owners’ long term business growth strategies are, but from a business perspective, I think these store owners are shortsighted for multiple reasons:
- I am guaranteeing the shop business for 25 people without the business owner having to chase business or market their company; I came to them.
- The shop has a captive audience of 25 people for twenty to thirty minutes. The business owner has the opportunity to talk about their business and show their products.
- Their business is being exposed to people who have no idea their business exists.
- Business 101 – we all know word of mouth travels, good and bad.
- Although it may inconvenience the store’s local customers and be a little more disruptive than normal for thirty minutes, it’s a short finite period of time during a week day. In the big picture it’s thirty minutes out of a full day and will not negatively impact their business.
- Additionally, one would think that local customers would be happy and supportive to see the store is doing well and attracting business.
- If locals pass the shop and see a large group of people, their curiosity might be piqued and they might want to stop by to see what’s going on. Bonus, more customers.
- I understand these indie shops aren’t designed to fit a large group of people at one time, but work with me. I suggested taking shifts and having half the group go in and the other half wait outside and then switch.
I believe these stores have missed a business opportunity and are thinking small. Think small and be small. Although I am intrigued by their store concepts and executions, I’m disappointed in their customer service. I’m not inclined to rush back to support their local businesses nor recommend them. I think I’ll fuhgeddaboudit!