June 16, 2003, 12:00 AM

Though hurt by the economy, 75% of small retailers say things will improve

They`re struggling with big-retail competition and a tough business climate. Yet 64% of small retailers are optimistic about the future, an online wholesaler finds.

Mom-and-Pop shops say they’ve been hurt by the economy’s downturn, but 75% polled in a recent survey expect things to get better – if they overcome what one-third say is a top problem: access to merchandise, says survey sponsor DollarDays International.

 

That barrier is a blessing to the Phoenix, AZ-based b2b online liquidator, where revenues are growing at about 20% per month, according to president Marc Joseph. The company, which launched online in 1998, sells merchandise online to some 20,000 small retailers and local distributors via its web site, DollarDays.com.

 

Joseph says small retailers face stiff competition in attempting to source from the same suppliers as retail’s giants. Large chain stores get special pricing by buying goods by the truckload, whereas small storeowners don’t place orders big enough to qualify, says Joseph. But small retailers know that their customers are looking for the same price, selection and service they obtain from chain superstores. “That’s why DollarDays is growing so rapidly," says Joseph, who says the company’s business model is based on providing lower prices to small storeowners.

The survey, undertaken online and through the company’s newsletter, sought to gauge small retailers’ reaction to the tough retail climate and their beliefs about future prospects. Joseph points out that small business is a major factor in the economy, accounting for about 51% of the private sector. “Many business experts believe that if small businesses succeed, the rest of the economy is sound as well,” he says.

 

65% of small retailers and distributors polled said the recent economy has hurt business. However, 75% said they expect business to improve over the next three months. 64% said they were optimistic about the economy’s prospects for recovery. Asked about the greatest challenge they face, the smaller retailers were almost evenly divided among competition for larger retailers, cited by 34%, and access to merchandise, 33%. 29% cited obtaining new customers as a major challenge.

 

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