One Small Retailer's Bold Move
An ad on the radio while driving in my car this past weekend did two things I wasn’t expecting. One, it caught me off guard in its stunning candor-as-a-business-tack. And two, it reminded me of something I think we’re all supposed to remember: Small Business Saturday, which, if truth be told, I hadn’t thought about it in about 355 days. Here’s the story.
Atlas Liquors is a family-owned chain of three stores based in Massachusetts. They do all their own radio ads, and they love to tout that they’ve been family-owned since the end of prohibition. Most of their spots tell you about whatever special they are running on a certain wine of the month, but they always keep it pretty folksy.
This ad was different. Natalie (their family’s spokesperson for as long as I can remember), started with the following:
Ever travel and notice that so many cities look the same? Strip malls, box stores, huge chains. It’s almost formulaic the way some of these places look – like if there’s a Petco, you can guarantee there’ll be a Panera in the same plaza.
Whoa! That got my attention. A lot of small businesses will advertise that their service or selection might differ from that of the big boys, but she named names!
Boston’s always been a wonderfully diverse city with tons of neighborhoods, unique from one another. But lately, it feels as if we’re losing that charm. Pockets of the city that were once home to small independents are being reconfigured. With soaring costs, it’s more and more challenging for us independents to be successful.
When you’re next running your errands, think about the difference it makes to our retail landscape when you support the independent retailer vs. the box store or a massive chain. As third generation owners, my brothers and I are keenly aware that there are many places you can shop and we’re hoping that the importance of supporting smaller independent retailers like us here at Atlas will resonate with you.
That was bold. I’ve seen and heard lots of techniques employed to steal business away from chains, but never “because they have no soul and are destroying what made your neighborhood likable” before. The ad never even mentions prices, and I’m guessing because with giant “high touch” liquor chains like Total Wine popping up all over my fair city lately, the implied notion is that you will, indeed, pay a few pennies more at Atlas. And that you, indeed, should be happy to pay those few extra pennies. Because you don’t want to live in Anytown, USA.
I applaud the candor, but I even more so appreciate that at no point - even though the time of year is perfectly at hand - did the folks at Atlas reference Small Business Saturday. Because if you like having local small businesses, you’re going to have to pay a little more. And you’re going to have to shop there more than one day a year. And in an age when so much seems out of the control of our individual hands, that is one thing we can absolutely effect: directly.