As a small business owner, I make a point of checking in on my competition every couple of months. Sometimes I do this to learn, sometimes I do it to compare, and sometimes I do it to vindicate the services and claims I offer. More than ever, that competition comes from big box stores . And we all know why: because those places are cheaper, right?
Not really. While the big boys in home improvement offer a lot of deals, those deals aren’t necessarily great. And when you’re comparing apples with apples, the deals just aren’t so good. You see, at Home Depot you can find lots of low price products because those products are generally lower in quality. As the old adage goes, ‘you get what you pay for’. In the end, you’ll have to pay even more for choosing low quality non-durable goods. Those big stores get a lot of mileage out of selling low quality, low price products. Doing so has earned them a reputation for being cheaper than smaller local businesses. But you can also find higher priced items at these places, too. The real question is whether or not those higher priced products are worth it.
Small businesses like mine usually don’t want to sell the low quality brands. It’s too costly for us to do so; too much of a headache, too dangerous for our reputation and too expensive to buy in such volume. So I sell quality products. But are my products more expensive than similar products sold at the big store. The answer is simply no. In fact, in recent comparison trips I have found that for the same price I sell a better comparable product. Take for instances copper sinks. At two of the big stores I found a copper vessel sink of the same brand for $240. I too sell a copper vessel sink – by Premier Copper – of the same shape and size for $220. That sink is also made with a gauge (thickness) twice as much as the others. As well, the hand forge process the sinks I sell are made with lead to a much more durable product than the machine-made sinks at the big stores offer. On top of that, Premier Copper sinks are made using 97.7% recycled copper and the people making them earn a fair wage.
The same can be applied to flooring. At one of the big stores I found a strandwoven bamboo priced 10 cents higher than the strandwoven bamboo I offer by Eco Timber. Yet what I sell is better. Eco Timber has been rated by Consumer Reports as the best bamboo floor, 3 years running now. Knowing what makes a good floor, I asked for the merits of the big store flooring line from a sales associate and he was unable to even answer my questions. He couldn’t tell me simple factors such as the hardness or moisture content of the floor that cost more than the one I sell.
So it’s true, the big home improvement stores can be cheaper as can anyone when selling a cheap product. But with high quality product there is no price advantage with these stores, and as we all know, no service advantage. Yes, these places do stock some things that I can’t, but often what they have to special order is the only thing I will sell and stand behind.