The word “mother” recalls many adjectives in people’s minds: kind, gracious and loving, for instance. Even more profoundly, it reminds people of someone they can trust because a mother’s instincts will never steer you wrong. Also, mothers tend to make really good food. If you put those last two attributes together in retail form, you might just come up with a small Southern California chain that’s been providing good food that people can trust for the past 35 years.

Being an independent retailer isn’t easy. Corporate chain stores and big-box retailers are around practically every corner in most cities and towns, and an increasing number of consumers are turning to their computer screens to satisfy much of their shopping needs.

Managing the competitive and changing retail landscape can be a challenge even for large companies with deep financial resources. For smaller, independent retailers without extensive marketing budgets or technical knowledge, surviving is even more difficult.

Co-founders Ryan Baty and Mark Barrientos opened the first Mattress Hub store in 2008 in a Hutchinson, Kan., shopping mall. Back then, Mattress Hub focused on low-priced, value mattresses.

“We had a relationship with Glideaway Manufacturing to help liquidate their overstock and clearance items on consignment,” Baty recalls. “At that point in time, Glideaway was our only vendor and our goal was to only do $1,000 a day in sales so that we could make enough to pay the company’s bills and our personal expenses.”

John Cosentino says he still hears stories about the way his family treated customers at its first Kansas City-area supermarket. For example, there was the time his Uncle Jim helped a sick woman carry her groceries home and then stayed to play a song for her on her piano. Cosentino, now vice president of Cosentino’s Food Stores, says that level of customer service has been the backbone of the company’s success from the very beginning, and the family owned and operated grocery store chain continues to be known throughout the city for it.

William Aubuchon IV, vice president of sales for Aubuchon Hardware, wants the family stores his great-grandfather started more than 100 years ago to be “destination hardware stores.” For Aubuchon, this means continuing to offer the best customer service possible in larger locations, with wider product selection and specialized departments, such as full-service plumbing and paint.

Aubuchon and the company’s management team – comprised largely of family members – have a strategy in place to reach their objectives and keep their brand current and prosperous. It entails expanding the stores’ footprints and re-vamping the Aubuchon website to offer better selection and service.

The thrift retail environment is vastly different from mainstream retail. America's Thrift Stores is one of the largest thrift store chains in the southeast United States and is guided by more than profit.

“We minister in three areas,” President and CEO Timothy Alvis says. “We support Christian ministries, we provide a lot of jobs as we have more than 1,200 employees, and we provide a product that anyone can afford to buy with dignity.”

How many people do you know – hopefully not yourself – who have successfully run the gauntlet of obstacles on the way to an airport departure gate, only to discover they left a crucial piece of equipment – such as a cellphone charger or a camera – at home? Have you ever had a flight delayed and wondered how you would pass the time?

Answering these needs are the three retail brands of Project Horizon Inc. – InMotion Entertainment, SoundBalance and Headphone Hub. Since its first two airport stores opened in 1999 renting DVDs and players, InMotion Entertainment has changed with the evolving industry into an airport-only consumer electronics store that still rents DVDs and players. Rentals generate only a small amount of revenue, but they serve an important purpose.

Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Davenport, Iowa, hopes to find business growth in a geographic area that has seen very little growth of its own in the last 20 years. “One of our biggest challenges is trying to find growth in an area with a stagnant population,” Vice President and General Manager Todd Johnson says. “Trying to manage our number of SKUs these days has become quite the challenge.”

While a large influx of new accounts isn’t necessarily in the immediate offing for the distributor, it continues to look for opportunities to expand its product reach in other ways.

rmcover janfeb2016

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