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Eye on Retail: Small retailers loom large on Amazon

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) selling on Amazon Marketplace rang up big sales in 2017.

In 2017, more than 300,000 U.S.-based small and medium-sized businesses joined the Amazon Marketplace — a network comprised of companies that operate in every state in the U.S., and more than 130 countries around the world. More than 140,000 of these small and medium-sized businesses surpassed $100,000 in sales on Amazon in 2017.

Customers ordered “billions of items” from these businesses through Amazon’s Marketplace. More than one billion items were purchased during the holiday season, and more than 140 million items were ordered between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to the company.

Other SMB milestones achieved in 2017 include:

  • Fulfillment by Amazon shipped billions of items worldwide.
  • Amazon Lending, a program launched in 2011, surpassed $3 billion lent to small businesses on Amazon.
  • Amazon Handmade expanded to encompass 10 categories offering customers more than one million handcrafted items from thousands of artisans and small business owners across all 50 states, and more than 60 countries.

“More and more small and medium-sized businesses are choosing to join the Amazon Marketplace and sell alongside Amazon to reach customers around the world,” said Peter Faricy, VP for Amazon Marketplace. “Entrepreneurs and small business owners are succeeding on Amazon, and reinvesting in their local communities, efforts which create jobs and support local suppliers.”

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Woydziak Do it Best lights up a small town

BY Ken Clark

Things are looking a little bit like Christmas at Woydziak Do it Best in Lyons, Kan. Actually more than a little.

When a reporter called the store to inquire about its involvement in the Lyons, Kan., Lighted Christmas Parade, the distinctive sound of Christmas carolers could be heard in the background. “Oh, those are the local middle school children,” said Jason Huddleston, co-owner with his wife Danica. “We have them in the store today.”

Woydziak stepped up to take the reins of the Lyons Annual Lighted Christmas Parade in 2016, when it appeared to be on the brink of shutting down. The support continued – and participation doubled — in 2017, with 52 floats and one of the biggest events of its kind to illuminate Lyons main street. [The store's Facebook page has photos of the parade.] 

Not only that, Santa Claus himself made an appearance in the store Dec. 16. And the middle school carolers — all 30 to 40 of them — were raising funds to help families in need.

The Huddleston’s have owned the hardware store in Lyons for about 8 years. Asked how these events, and others like them throughout the year, contribute to the success of the hardware store, Jason did not hesitate: “It’s immense. The impact is unbelievable, especially in a smaller town like Lyons (population 3,800). People here are gung-ho on community involvement. And it helps business as customers realize that we’re not here just to take their money, we’re here to build this community.” 

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Award-winning small business talks growth

BY Ken Clark

Carr Hardware, the six-store retailer based in Pittsfield, Mass., made headlines this month for winning a National Small Business Award. The retailer cruised to the award on the strength of community-first creed. And it already promised away its prize money to help renovate a park in Pittsfield.

In an interview with HBSDealer, Carr Hardware owner Bart Raser described his company as one with all the traditional strengths of a small business – veteran, knowledgeable employees; a friendly folksy culture; and an ability to make quick community-focused decisions.

But make no mistake, the company is growth oriented, and has opened two of its six locations in the last two years.

Opening a new store and expanding into new market can be a challenge for the small hardware store. “The one thing it forces you to do,” says Raser, “is it forces you to develop more controls and more discipline. Expanding helped us bring in better talent, and bring in more best practices. At the same time, we’re a folksy company and we can still make decisions with our gut.”

As an example of a decision that came from the gut, Raser described the time he went to visit a store going out of business for the sole purpose of acquiring its Lozier fixtures. He ended up walking out with the key to the store.

That kind of ability to make fast decisions, he said, is a “huge advantage” for small businesses facing competition from national chains as well as internet rivals.

“I think we’re heavily community integrated,” he added. “Customers view us as a community partner. A lot of our employees are career professionals and experts in their fields. And we benefit from warm fuzziness of shopping local.

Originally founded by Sam Carr in 1928, the company was purchased by the Raser family in 1962 and day-to-day operations are still handled by Marshall Raser, and his son, Bart. 

When asked how it fetl to win the Independent We Stand National Small Business Award against competition from hardware stores, book stores, pet stores and all kinds of small businesses, Raser said: “I think we were very surprised, thrilled, excited, humbled – all of those words. We’re very proud.”

 

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