Facing the Competition
We all should respect, but not fear, competition.
– Don and Dolly Dixon
Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called “C-shells.” These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.
- Exploit the competitor’s shortcomings to your advantage. This is a classic example of a small business applying a S.W.O.T. analysis to both his business AND his competitors business. S = strength. W = weaknesses. O = opportunities. T = threats.Each of us should work on eliminating our weaknesses and capitalizing on our competitor’s weaknesses. Likewise, we guard against and monitor potential threats to our business, and hope that our competition overlooks us as a threat to theirs. Sometimes you may find it best to identify your competitor’s strengths and not try to compete with them in that area. eg; Retail foils at 69 cents. You can’t win that fight! So don’t even try. Take them on where they can’t win a fight with you! Analyze BOTH your business and theirs. It shouldn’t take you any more than 1.5 hrs to do your biz and your 2 most formidable competitors. You’ll then find it easier to identify and focus on your “edge”.
Maybe you’ll find your “edge” listed under Strengths? Maybe under Opportunities. eg; a recent topic on this list was the potential for linen rentals for some balloon pros? This market has huge potential for willing entrepreneurs. Does Party City offer linen rental?
An “opportunity” may be in relocating to where the proposed new freeway will give your business 10 times more exposure? …or half the rent with more floor space? Your “strengths” may be your creativity, telephone manner, patience with brides, rapport with local hotel banquet managers, using Qualatex balloons, your portfolio, etc.?
Just remember that half the battle is being honest enough to admit your business “weaknesses.” Could be a staff member’s personal hygiene or appearance? Bookkeeping? Estimating? Floor space? Customer Parking? Home based – so no visual displays or client meetings at your premises? Lack of signage? Low on capital? Uncooperative / inflexible / unreliable suppliers? Computer skills?
Basically, analyzing strengths and weaknesses is about looking at a business as it is NOW. Analyzing opportunities and threats, is looking into a business’s possible FUTURE. I hope this helps some look at their business in a whole new light and inspires the doubtful to surge ahead. Don’t be afraid of competition; use them – out smart them – respect them and accept them. Try this new attitude and soon you’ll find that they are doing their best, just to compete with you!
- Our local Party City is advertising 18″ red foil hearts inflated (no weight!) for $0.49 each! So I convince every customer I have that 18′ red hearts were just too old hat for my great customer base. I would push other colored hearts and JUMBO HEARTS all day long! I would make black and hot pink the colors of choice for the ladies and silver and gold with blue for the fellow “Without You It Would Be A Blue Valentine’s Day” – Well, you get the idea.
- Reviews and Impressions
- You Get What You Pay For
- Party City Is My Friend
- Party City Is My Supplier
- All Is Lost! Oh, Woe Is Me
- On The Bright Side
- It’s All In The Delivery
- The Customer Speaks
Reviews and Impressions
- Yesterday my husband and I made our first trip to our new Party City in town! I want to tell you that I was totally unimpressed! Everyone always talked about how when Party City comes to town that it kills their business! I wouldn’t know why! Their prices (other than the plates, napkins, cups and table covers) were more expensive than mine! And of course their balloons were cheaper, but look what you get!
- I am always checking what the competition says about their balloons and these people have NO CLUE! I asked the girl working in the balloon area how long their latex balloons last and she said up to 11 days! I then questioned her about the fact that I wanted latex and she said “oh, no… the latex last 2 days!” They are going to have some very disappointed customers if she keeps this up.My husband bought me a balloon and they claim that their balloons are 12″. This girl must have been so scared of the balloon popping because this balloon might have been 10″… drastically underinflated. feel Party City is far from what I expected!
- We have two big party stores near us. Their balloons won’t look fresh first thing in the morning because they did them the day before. They don’t deliver large quantities or same day. They have more mylars so I can buy one from them if I need one in a hurry. They don’t carry 5″, 16″ or 3′ balloons and they only sell standard bouquets. Lots of people like cheap but lots of people don’t like to be bothered doing it themselves. I actually refer people to these places sometimes and they are very thankful and can’t believe I would refer the competition. So maybe it’s not so bad!
- I thought I’d share an incident with you all that I had seen at a Party City in my area recently. A customer of theirs was buying a bunch of balloons (about 20-25). A Party City employee brought them outside and was putting them into the customer’s utility vehicle. I stopped and paused as I was leaving to watch her. There were no delivery bags, no balloon weights used. The customer watched as the employee struggled to handle the balloons. Suddenly, one by one they started to pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! I was almost ready to laugh, but I restrained myself. My husband who was with me at the time told me to keep on walking, but I really wanted to give the customer my business card and tell her to call me next time and none of this would happen. My husband said not to do it, so I didn’t. (I’m still adamant I should have). Anyhow, I believe that if that is the type of competition we are against, there is no competition. We just have to make people aware of us and explain that there are correct ways of handling, delivering and decorating with balloons. To get quality, it is not the cheapest way. It goes without saying for anything. Keep in mind the next time you see a big time retail party chain. They are the cheapest in all respects.
- Once I watched a lady put all the balloons in her station wagon and her kid got in the back door and all the balloons went flying out as she slammed the hatch. Now that was funny… for me! Not so much for the customer.
- And the help that they get in those stores. Once I was at the register and some teenage girl was on the phone with another girl discussing some stupid incident that happened the night before. I told her to put the phone down and take care of the customers because we are paying her salary. She was quite taken back. I even went so far as to send in one of those “comments to the president”. I signed my name and address, even gave my phone number. I am still waiting for a reply… and that was two years ago.
- The Party City franchise web page says that they are looking to open another 148 stores in the US and at least 2 in each of about 20 other listed countries. Right on one of the web pages ad for a Party City was a nice picture of “Balloon Bouquets.” I’m almost tempted to call the owners of the phrase and tell them it’s being used without their permission (no sign of a trademark symbol or reference to who owns it could be found.)
- We have one of the 1/2 Off Card Shop stores near us. Just last weekend someone stopped in and tried to pick up several balloon arrangements and a wishing well and stuff them all into an SUV. Comical sight, of course no weights attached and there were also 4 bridesmaids trying to get in with these unwieldy balloons. I felt sorry for these people so I gave them my card and told them I could help with the next wedding or shower.
- I’ve watched people come out of Party City and pop most of their balloons just trying to get them into their car. I’ve offered free balloons bags, and weights as I gave them my business card.
You Get What You Pay For
- We have a Party City here too. They frequently take out ads in the (very large) local newspaper advertising a dozen (latex) balloons for $4.99. No, I cannot compete with that price, but usually the balloons are OVERinflated, NEVER “Hi-Floated”, and the customer usually has 2, 3 or more burst or “cut loose” before they get them into their car.
- Party City and others should never be competition. Being smaller we can offer quality and services they can’t, we can educate and innovate when needed. Most of all we can CARE MORE about our customer’s needs and exceed their expectations.
- People get what they pay for. My main situation/goal is educating our local John Q. Public that “a balloon is a balloon is a balloon” is not true. The average mindset of our local consumer is “why should I buy balloons from you when I can get them from the dollar store or Party City much cheaper, and do a bouquet by myself?”It’s a tough row to hoe, but I’ll get there. Word of mouth about my “long-lasting,” beautiful balloons delivered with a presentation is (slowly) spreading. You and I both know that no dollar store or Party City can compete with that.
- To overcome the ‘cheaper prices’ problem, you simply *use* that as a selling tool within your own marketing efforts. In other words, you emphasize in your advertising that people must choose between ‘cheapness’ and ‘quality’ when considering their balloon purchases. Yours are ‘the best’ – theirs are ‘the cheapest.’ (You must however be able to back up that claim with solid evidence… for example, balloon ‘flying time’ would be a good one for bouquets).You will lose some potential customers to Party City, as there are always people who buy purely on price alone. But I believe balloon professionals must increasingly look up towards the high/quality end of the market, rather than trying to compete in the mass market, where price is king.
- I am also home based and have a Party City 30 blocks away from my home on one of the busiest boulevards. I also have a gift store, which sells balloons, bouquets, and decorates and is 1/2 block away from my home. One block away I have another balloon store. There are numerous florists in my area that also sell balloons and mylars.The one thing that makes my service different is that I am a “Decorator” these places are just selling balloons and other items. I can solely concentrate on party events when they cannot. I take the time to explain and show in detail my work and what I can do for them. I show them the balloon color chart so they can see how the balloons actually look and inflate them if need to. When someone calls with questions on a decorating Seville I accommodate them, by either having them come to my home or by me going to theirs. Since the majority are working people they love the idea that they can shop in the comfort of their home.
As for Party City and everybody else, they may sell their brand name cheaper but my balloons are quality and I state that to the customers. I do sell a dozen balloons at Party City’s price but for that price I purchase the bargain city balloons that Flowers, Inc sells $6.65 for a gross of 11″ assorted colors. This way not only can I sell at their price but then I get the opportunity to educate the customer by letting them know that these balloons are the same as the other stores. If they want quality balloons they are more expensive. And of course, here comes the questions from the customers as to what do I mean inexpensive and what are the difference in balloons and so on. So, I have to say that although I have all of these stores surrounding me, I still get calls. Not to mention that especially when it’s a balloon delivery I always add either a geo, or other colorful balloons so they think that I am being generous and that they are receiving something different.
What I’m trying to say is that if you are selling quality and satisfaction to the customers they will always recommend you to others and they will come back.
- If you have a niche in this market… doing quality decor, creative decor… you don’t have to worry about those stores as being competition. And besides, I don’t want their customers to be my customers anyway. Most of them are just looking for price. I want quality customers who want quality work.
- I haven’t found that the larger Party Stores in any way have stopped my business or made less come my way!!! My customers know what they get with me – “Top on the line” – and they are welling to pay for it. I cater to a lot of doctors that don’t have a lot of time to shop. They love the fact that I will come to them and sometimes they give me a budget and tell me to do my stuff.
- Emphasize our differences by using geo’s, 260’s, double stuffed balloons, etc. You’ll probably NEVER see such things in the party stores. At least not in the ones I live near.
- Most big-time party stores do not hire their own CBA’s to do decorating for their customers. They still must come to you for creative expressions.Remember this as well. When a person buys a balloon on a string from a party store, they get a balloon on a string. They don’t get an arch. They don’t get a romantic setting for a wedding reception. And, if they’re lucky, they may get an employee who won’t have to remove him/herself from the customer in order to ring-up a customer buying a $2.00 b-day card, and then try to finish the original customer’s arrangement.
When a customer goes to Party City, they get a balloon on a string. When they come to a CBA, or other artist, they get MAGICAL MEMORIES. What is that worth to your customer?
- Big Party chains won’t buy balloons that are “a risk” Meaning: will they sell? Most of them have the usual Bugs Bunny, Taz and Mickey Mouse… Not too many have the characters or the licenses that Pioneer and Qualatex have. I sell NFL Football and MLB Baseball Teams like hot cakes, because I sell ALL the teams… I target the Kids and their Favorite characters.I started using the Marketing Material that Qualatex sends me and believe me it works! Party City’s workmen’s comp does not allow them to use High Float. And Party City closes at 6 PM on Sunday.
- Don’t worry about their cheap mylars and latex balloons – that’s not where the big bucks are anyway. Your difference: you deliver, you set up, you strike; you do 3′ balloons, stuffed balloons, gumballs; yours will float longer and are tied with satin, tulle or lace ribbons, etc. etc. Don’t fear them – take advantage of their weak areas.
- Here’s a little story. A hairdresser in town had a very lucrative business that was charging $80.00 for a hair cut. A smart operator saw how this hairdresser was doing so well and decided that she would open up across the street from her and charge $30.00. The first hairdresser’s business fell off until she advertised in her window that she fixed $30.00 haircuts.
Party City Is My Friend
- Get friendly with the Party Store staff that sells the balloons – the lowly clerk who has the perceived misfortune of doing the actual inflation. Just happen to have a mini portfolio of some smashing decor that they couldn’t possibly accomplish to show the clerk. Then ask if you can leave some business cards and flyers with them for their customers who want sculptures, SDS decor, wedding work. Ask to speak to the manager to OK leaving the cards – be friendly, whip out the mini portfolio, and let that person know that this information will help their customers and will not affect their balloon sales.
- I do a lot of weddings and I run into the “balloons are only a dime at the local liquor store” line when the bride makes me meet with her father. The way that I combat this problem is to wow them with my work, of course! I always take my portfolio of work that I have done and show it to them. As they are ooohhhhing and ahhhhing over my portfolio, I explain to them that of course they can do the balloons themselves cheaply, but it is one more thing that they have to worry about on their wedding day. They are not only paying for the balloons, they are paying for the piece of mind that their reception is going to be their dream come true and that it is going to be done correctly and on time — guaranteed. I usually received the deposit before I finish my sentence.
- In my town we have Party City, Party Land, Card Factory, Mom and “Pop” and other little joes that have a tank and a bag of Balloons. They’re not a problem for me. I know just about everyone at my Party City store near my house. I have even delivered balloons to Party City. (Someone there wanted Spanish Valentine’s Balloons) When I go in there they always ask me “What’s new in the Balloons world?”
- I visit about 3 times a week so I’m really well known. I even get referrals for decorating jobs from them occasionally , mostly from the staff that I have made friends with (although they won’t agree to put a portfolio of mine on the balloon counter yet, but who knows, I keep trying!).When I go to Party City (because they sell rolls of ribbon for .79-.99 when on sale) I always take my business cards with me. I’ve assisted customers too (as I hand them my business card).
Party City Is My Supplier
- Party City has become a “tool” that we use when necessary to stay ahead of ALL of our competitors. It just so happens that the tool in this instance, is also one of those competitors.
- Our local Party City is advertising 18″ red foil hearts inflated (no weight!) for $0.49 each! I am going there and stocking up on Thursday — I certainly can’t buy and inflate them for that price!
- If it were me, I would convince every customer I had that 18′ red hearts were just too old hat for my great customer base. I would push other colored hearts and JUMBO HEARTS all day long! I would make black and hot pink the colors of choice for the ladies and silver and gold with blue for the fellow “Without You It Would Be A Blue Valentine’s Day” – Well, you get the idea. I might buy the cheap mugs and put them away for next year.
- I am also going to purchase mugs… they have V-day mugs on sale for 69 cents here! Can’t beat that.
- I have become a frequent shopper at Party City lately. It all started when I received an ad for Party City and in it was a LOSS LEADER (those items stores reduce to bring you in) for curling ribbon $0.69 a roll, no limit. The same ribbon I buy for up to three times that price plus shipping. Recalling something that Michael Eisner (CEO of the Walt Disney Company) wrote in his recent book made me take a second look. Mr Eisner wrote (let me paraphrase) It’s not the price you sell an item for that’s important but the price you paid for it. I bought a lot, saved a lot and have not been sorry.
- I started to look at Party City as supplier, because they are not a competitor of mine. I don’t feel they can compete with me In service or in quality. Case in point, today while shopping for foil balloons, I overheard a mother and father trying to buy a bouquet with a mix of foils and latex for their young son’s birthday tomorrow. I overheard the girl behind the counter discourage them from buying the latex because ” they only last 8-12 hours”. Having heard this for myself and seeing the disappointment on their faces, I will attack this weakness in my future ads and flyers.
- Sometimes party stores are okay. this past graduation season the party store near me sold inflated graduation foils cheaper than I can buy them wholesale! The foils were current stock for the season too, so guess where I brought all my grad foils. 😉
- They regularly reduce the decorating items that I use the most to 25 cents. You read that right, 25 cents. They discontinue all their mylars and put them out on a giant table for a quarter. They are all the ones still available and in perfect condition. The manager told me they just need to “cycle the stock”. And I also bought card board juke boxes (3 feet tall) for a quarter and all the coordinated items for the 50’s theme. Last week I stocked up on the Luau decorations for a quarter and the weekend before that was the Mardi Gras theme.
- I shop in all of these stores when they have really good sales, plus when I go I make sure that I have my business shirt on.
All Is Lost! Oh, Woe Is Me
- “Party City,” a HUGE party store chain moved in to town – and offers “mylars” starting at $0.59 to $1.99 each and a “take out” bouquet of a dozen latex for $4.99!! (I can’t even get foil balloons at wholesale for $0.59!) People don’t seem to notice (or care) that these foil balloons from the BIG store are mostly one-sided designs, or not self-sealing; the latex are certainly not Qualatex, and are not treated with Hi- Float. (The latex are their OWN generic brand.) It matters not that there are no “warm-fuzzy” add-ons (like a little bit of shred tied to the neck of the foils, etc). “Balloons are balloons – and if people can get them cheaper, why would they buy from you?” my sister-in-law says. Hence, the general mindset of John Q. Public. How do you deal with this? What can we do to help change the impression (or lack of) that the public (at least our local public) has of balloons?
- We are about to have a Party City open right in front of my store. Party City skips the distributor effectively cutting out the territory salesman they are able to sell everything at 50% off and work on volume discounts instead of markups. I have desperately been trying to get suppliers to work with us to help us stay in business but most of the reps act as if they are attending a wake when they come to call on us. It is clear to me that if Party City moves into every one of their areas killing out the competition it will render their distributorship completely valueless, and in my mind it would be in best interest to keep the customers in business, but they don’t see it that way. Balloons are a huge part of our business and we do offer delivery, high quality decorating, quality and service and we are in for the fight of our life, because if the public was interested in those things (as opposed to low price) there would be successful Mom and Pop stores surrounding all the Wal-Mart’s of the world… and we all know that just isn’t so.
On The Bright Side
- The arrival of the “HUGE” party store chain could also be *good* news for your business. Because:
- “Party City” obviously believes that there’s some potential for the party/balloon market in your area, to open their big store in the first place.
- The extra publicity they will generate will get more people thinking about balloons in your area, which is all free advertising for you!
It’s All In The Delivery
- By offering delivery services, you’re being different. I don’t think Party City offers delivery. Most people have to pick up the balloons themselves – and if they’re ordering a lot of balloons, it’s more likely they won’t be able to pick them up unless they have a huge van.
- You can even offer free delivery in the local area you’re in, that would be a plus! I too have a Party City in the area but most of my customers come to me simply because we deliver 7 days a week at just about anytime! They love that!
- 6 years ago we used to get 8 C-shells per doz of 11″ latex for a bulk pick up, now we charge 5 C-shells as a loss leader so we can compete. But the most important thing your customer needs to know is that you DELIVER! Delivery is very important to anyone who tried to pick up balloons and had a nightmare getting them home, especially the ones whose balloons got away. The dollar stores and discount stores do not offer service of any kind. I get a lot of their customers coming in saying how rudely they were treated at the other places. We have to kill them with kindness, creativity and service!!! We pride ourselves on our service and quality. Bargain prices are great, but we believe in “You get what you pay for” Our customers usually are willing to pay a little bit more for a MUCH high grade of service.
- Party City does not deliver so that is one of my main sources of getting orders. Who wants to carry 2 dozen balloons in their car?
The Customer Speaks
- I’m not a professional balloon artist or decorator. I’m the customer you think you’ll lose to the big guys. Let me tell you how to entice a customer like myself.Yours is similar to a competitive situation in my own experience. All the major chain craft stores do picture framing. Samples of all the different kinds of matting are on the counter and lots of generic examples are on the surrounding walls in this part of the store. They frequently run 50%-off custom framing coupons. I’ve tried to ask for advice from the clerks, but they clearly only know how to cut and paste. I go there when I have a simple job, don’t want to invest much and know exactly what I want.
I also know of a small frame shop. They too have samples of frames and mats. On the walls are all the prize-winning framing jobs they have entered in various contests. They advise on colors, proportions, etc., and help match to not only the piece being framed, but the furniture/room it will be in or near. When I don’t know exactly what I want and/or I want a top quality job, I trust their advice and have never been disappointed.
When I am at someone’s home or office, I can tell if their diploma, or whatever was professionally framed or taken to the chain store. It’s usually not something you can put your finger on, but something just isn’t quite right.
I’m guessing your party superstore has a book on the counter with the menu of columns, arches, etc. with a component price and maybe some package deals. I pick the pieces I think will look good, change the colors, and that’s it.
I know I can’t envision the overall effect you can give me, much less design or do it myself.
YOU can offer service, a cohesive decor package. Help me develop or exploit a theme. Talk w/ me about my menu, guests etc., things the party store won’t show any interest in. Personalize it for me. Show attention to detail. Make me think you are tailoring a whole package especially for my party. It’s custom made for me — I won’t be able to resist.
The advantage is if everybody starts having balloons from this store, all the parties/events start to look the same. (The best part is everybody starts having balloons!) Then as the savvy hostess I have to look for that something different. Along with that is what we call snob-appeal. My event was too good for the standard decor package from the party store. I hired a professional! And it’ll be the talk of the town!
- I’m probably going to the party store for napkins, plates, tablecloths, and the like. They’re probably making their money on these items, and giving the balloons away. I feel like I have to go to the party store either way, so why not save myself a trip (to you)? You could do the same, but the other way around. Offer to supply and set up these items (at/near cost) in coordinating colors/prints along with your better quality balloon decor. Now I just have to worry about food.
- I introduce newcomers into this industry every week. I see them start with no skills or knowledge of the industry. But they have a desire to achieve. So I teach them how to become professional balloon persons. I see some of them go on to run very healthy balloon businesses. They compete with my wife’s business …. some only a couple of miles from her premises. And guess what? We call most of them friends and our profits are up every year. How come?Start by giving the public (your customers) a little respect for their level of intelligence. They have eyes! They can SEE the difference between a great balloon and a “weekend warrior’s” supermarket quality latex balloons. They can see how a pro decorator presents herself and her business. They can HEAR how she talks to them with genuine interest on the phone. None of us have anything to fear from backyard balloonies. They are, in fact, your best justification to put your prices UP. The wider the gap, the more the buyer will question the quality of goods offered at the lowest price. She’ll investigate…. and find the true value is with the stable business operator with the known reputation.
So the “El Cheapo” – fast buck – do it on a shoe string budget – operators… and the type of customers they attract… are doing you a favor. And we all know what happens to them after a few months or a year. They go bust and end up in some other scam or quick buck biz. Their customers find their way to your door pleading for a discount. Right? (and let me be the first in line to kick you in the tail if you give it to them).
What about the ones who do become professional in their approach? What about THIS new competition? Well, they are smart enough to realize that to make a good living from balloons, you gotta sell at the RIGHT PRICE. They also know that they have to have a “point of difference” to their competitors. The more variety and uses people see for balloons… the more often they will shop for balloons. If you have the confidence in your knowledge, your skills and your products… your bank manager loves you. Don’t fear your fellow professional balloon decorators. Embrace them and team up with them to make a full frontal assault on the market. If you aren’t active in a QBN Chapter, look into it!
Finally, there was another comment of concern about the balloon profession ending up like the cleaning profession? Again, think about this in the context of business viability and opportunity, rather than “the lowest price wins.” Society is changing! We are now forced to have 2 bread winners in most families. Many of us don’t have time to do the gardening, mow the lawn, clean the house, cook the evening meals, wash the car… do the balloons for Gloria’s wedding. The change in society itself is virtually guaranteeing the growth in domestic and commercial service industries. There are lousy gardeners, terrible restaurants and short-cut cleaners out there. Still – only the good ones in their field will go on to make a comfortable living from a sound base of customers that TRUST the business owner, year after year after year… You have better things to do. And by doing those “better things” you bring about the doom of the fast buck characters.
Competing With Other Retailers
- How does one deal with the continued rise in balloons in our grocery stores, discount stores, drug stores? I am amazed at the number of balloons for bouquets that are around! I have even had the employees of the grocery store floral department come over to my spot at the bridal show or displays at the mall and photograph them so they can try my designs! Ugh!! How do you stay one step ahead of them? Maybe carrying the balloons (geos) that the super markets don’t have? They have about everything EXCEPT the personalized one on one service that we offer with the availability of talking to the same person at all times….I suggested we should all emphasize the specialty balloons in our displays and deliveries. It is changing out there, because the mass market outlets are offering packaged balloons in the grocery isles and at the gas station. Mylar balloons in corrals above the grocery isles. Many in Australia see this as a threat. I assume it’s the same everywhere? But what one man sees as a threat to his business, another sees as an opportunity. I am guilty of being the eternal optimist in business. (the glass is always half full and never half empty)
By having the supermarkets stocking 9″ or 11″ round balloons, all I need to do is FEATURE my “point of difference”. So, I show GEO Donuts, Blossoms, 260s, 350s, heart shapes, SDS, Bat Mitzvah prints, and more. Human nature is such that the middle and upper class shopper will seek out something different… something unique… something personalized… something that her friends and relatives have not seen in the supermarket isles. She can afford to! So, guess what? That category (demographic) of shopper is just the one that I wish to target. Why? Because price is secondary to her! What she is looking to buy is something different. She will pay what she believes to be a “fair price” rather than a “cheap price” simply because she sees what you are providing her, is a “one off” – and not what her guests will see as Ho Hum. She will impress them!
Think positive! This is an advantage, an opportunity. At last you can focus your attention on your real point of difference. You don’t sell balloons. You sell quality. You sell a huge range. You sell emotion. You sell creativity. You sell decor. You sell customized product and service. You sell “designer” balloons. You sell what is not available on the supermarket shelf. You wrap it or deliver it differently to everyone else in town. Your staff are friendlier and full of expert product knowledge. You sell big ticket items – Not price sensitive packet balloons.
Our policy (and we tell the balloon reps this very clearly) is that if we see it in a supermarket or at the gas station, it is removed from our shelves! It is a waste of time trying to compete with mass merchandise outlets. Don’t give your customers the chance to compare your prices! If they stock apples, you had better stock bananas. If they stock both, you stock bags of mixed fruit. Bags of mixed fruit may have less market appeal, but you can command a better price for what is unique to your business. It’s the profit you enjoy on each sale, not the total number of sales, that is important.
You don’t really need to be concerned about the mass merchandisers if you identify AND MARKET your “point of difference”. For an interesting article on this topic, see Images magazine’s profile on The Red Balloon Co. in Seattle. RBC decided years ago to do all delivery bouquets in 16″ latex. I bet they charged more than their competitors did for 11″ arrangements! They became famous for their “point of difference”. Linda Bruce became known in her town for her “signature bouquet” using GEO Blossoms and 260s combined with round latex. Bruce Walden has quite a unique “point of difference”. His is – innovation. He is renowned the world over for being at the cutting edge of their industry. What I’m saying is that there is a bit of Jim Parker, Linda Bruce or Bruce Walden in each of us, if we just look for that quality or idea within. What’s your point of difference?
Now, who cares about balloons in drug stores?
- A few years ago, when I was in the flower business, supermarkets started selling flowers. Everyone in the industry was sure we were all going to hell in a hand basket! Guess what? The flower business is still around, growing bigger every day. The average price for arrangements has skyrocketed, this while the supermarkets are almost giving away flowers.I believe what happened is this: People who never considered buying flowers from a florist shop, carried home flowers and grew accustomed to having them around. These people then thought of flowers as a “neat thing” and realized that they could send them to friends for important occasions. Very few people would send the wad of flowers from the supermarket for a special occasion and so they sought out a florist for that special day. Viola!, a whole new market.
Yes Virginia, supermarkets have ATM machines, some even have mini-banks. However, believe me when I say, “The banks are not going out of business”!
On the other hand, supermarkets were devastating to mom and pop grocery stores, who tried to compete with their prices.
So, set yourself apart from the supermarket. Do better work (you can charge for it, it’s all right). Do different work (you are trained, their help is on the revolving door plan). Offer the one thing the supermarket does not; SERVICE. Find a niche and fill it! Most supermarkets do not decorate, can you imagine going to a big formal dinner dance and Mrs. Gotrocks telling you how she bought the upscale decor at the SUPERMARKET, with her weeks supply of toilet paper?
Remember, the mom and pop grocery stores are gone. Seven-Eleven walked in, filled the void and offered service. They are open the hours people want. The offer the small, in and out store. They charge a premium for it and they are doing rather well. They still sell the same thing, food, however they package it a little differently.
The thing that will hurt your business the most is a bad attitude. Consider the supermarkets as training for your customers. It teaches them just how wonderful balloons are. It makes them AWARE. This is a good thing. Now, you work on tracking down the customers who want something special, a wonderful delivery, an exciting sculpture, a dynamite trade show booth, a beautiful wedding, professional decor.
Remember, the supermarket sells food. But there are probably a FEW restaurants in your town still selling food also.
- Competition never hurts. You are selling yourself as an artist in your field. The people who come to us are not the people who buy balloons in the supermarket. They are the people who want something better and that is what we offer. We can take the same balloons the supermarket has and present them with ‘style’ instead of just a handful. Our customers will pay for the difference. Welcome competition and don’t bad-mouth it. Treat your customers with class and they will be yours.