Small businesses use personal touch to beat online and ‘big box’ sales


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – While the turkey and stuffing are stuffed into the fridge on Friday, many will head out to go shopping for sales. Others, still, will go online for bargains.

And while Small Business Saturday is around the corner, some small stores say it’s a daily fight to get customers in the door.

“I restore a lot of jewelry for people,” says Leslie Kinder with Melange Custom Jewelry in Delano. “And the mass marketing game? I play it on a smaller scale.”

Smaller doesn’t mean less effective. It just means more targeted. Kinder says one-on-one attention helps bring people in. She’s been in Delano since 1986.

A lot has changed since the 80’s.

“Facebook, personal touch marketing. I got on Instagram a few years ago and that is a great way to show people, conceptually, what I do,” says Kinder. “I’ve moved all of my slides, the images, onto digital. If people can connect with me then I can show them what I can do.”

And Kinder says a lot of people may not realize what a small store has to offer. Kinder has focused on custom jewelry and it’s keeping her business strong.

“I just have a little niche’ where a lot of other jewelry stores haven’t been able to make it because they sell and buy and it’s tough to compete with the malls right now,” says Kinder. “Just because we don’t have the advertising budget, it doesn’t mean we don’t have the products, you know?”

Down the street at the small business called Bungalow 26, Kelsey Metzinger sells an eclectic mix of candles, tea, notebooks and tiny metal Christmas trees. Metzinger says she fights year-round to get new people in the door, and to keep existing customers coming back.

“Customer service. 90 percent of the time I’m going to be in here,” says Metzinger. “I think it’s customer service and… I think my product selection, I work really hard to keep my product selection different, to keep it fresh, to keep it… things you would have to go to a big city to buy. And a lot of the stuff you want to touch it and smell it. It’s a very sensory experience in here.”

Metzinger said her website helps fight online sales from large retailers. But she, like Kinder, say it’s the personal touch that keeps people coming into their stores. Particularly this time of year when you see so many sales.

“It’s that custom, hands-on, I know what I’m doing. Because I’m a gemologist,” says Kinder. “And I can counsel them on their stones and I can clean and maintain it. And I think that’s what all of us little guys have to do is hone-down and specialize if we are going to stay open.”

Both Kinder and Metzinger say they look forward to Small Business Saturday. While they will turn six or seven times their normal business, they will remain focused on a year-round approach.

“I think engaging them (customers) is definitely part of the process of getting them back as… repeat customers,” says Metziner. “And once I see you twice I probably know what you like. It’s a conscious effort on my part to keep people here. I want them to buy stuff in here. I want to see them. I want to see their families and hear their stories.”

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