Why Some Customers Will Keep Choosing Specialty Stores Over Big Box – WWD

A recent report commissioned by Faire, the large online wholesale marketplace used by 700,000 independent retailers worldwide, looks to shed light on consumers who say they prefer to shop at specialty stores. The company’s survey, conducted by Wakefield Research, polled 1,000 U.S. consumers ages 18 and older who say they have shopped at specialty stores in the last 12 months.

Overall, the authors of the report note it is a sense of discovery that comes into play as consumers consider the difference between specialty stores and big-box retail experiences. A majority of Gen Z and Millennials report they favor specialty stores’ browsing experience and will choose to shop there to discover new products. Fifty-five percent of Gen Z also noted that they are “most likely to enjoy the experience of a specialty shop.”

Within the survey, the company found that a majority of respondents (55 percent) say they prefer to shop at specially stores over big-box retailers, revealing that the preference stems from the desire to “find something unique.” Forty-seven percent of survey respondents told the company they have discovered something new and unexpected at specialty stores.

Faire’s researchers claimed that the shopping experience at big-box stores has become an arduous experience for many, pointing to an increasing set of challenges that often plague big-box stores. For example, survey results found that 46 percent of shoppers report having trouble finding specific items. At the same time, 31 percent of consumers said they don’t feel valued.

Lauren Cooks Levitan, Faire’s chief financial officer, claimed that recent years have created a shift in consumer behavior. The pandemic has created nostalgia for shopping that is more personal, exciting and curated, and as a result consumers are more supportive of independent and local retailers as opposed to big-box chains.

“Today’s consumers are seeking out local community shops that offer unique experiences and greater opportunities for value-driven product discovery,” Levitan said. “Independent retailers tap into the human desire for discovery and community. It’s this emotional experience that big box can’t compete on.”

Levitan noted that consumers are making less frivolous and impulse-driven buying decisions. Intentional and value-based choices are the way shoppers are moving forward.

As for what this means for retailers moving forward? Levitan advised that all retailers need to be tapped into the values important to modern consumers. They are increasingly buying sustainability-forward products, supporting brands that give back to their communities and are minority-owned.

“Independent retailers are particularly agile and suited to responding to changing trends and preferences,” Levitan said. “We’ve seen this on Faire with eco-friendly, social good and women-owned products increasing in purchase volume by at least three times since 2020.”

Notably, Faire’s survey looks specifically to consumers who are shopping with independent retailers. As reported by WWD, sales at big-box retailers like Walmart and Target have boomed since the pandemic. Consumers are choosing affordability over brand loyalty, looking for deals to mitigate anxiety of inflation in the current economic environment.

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