One thing I think people underestimate is how much small business's are handicapped by the supply chain.
It isn't so much that we can't sell the same product for the same or lower prices, as that often we aren't really allowed to sell the same product at all. That is, the hottest product is often not available to us when we need it.
There are the obvious volume discounts that the big stores get. There are the exclusives they are given. But most harmful is the priority the big stores get in shipping. Either they get it first--sometimes weeks to months before we do. Or they get it when it isn't even available to us.
I don't think the big boys are more efficient than we are--in fact, I'd make the case that we are tons more efficient than they are. We have to be--plus, we're small enough to pay attention to every detail. The big boys don't need that--they just let their overwhelming size and numbers do the work.
A small example. There was a glowing article on an online news site about a boardgame that is "changing" the world of gaming: Wingspan.
Here's the thing. We've never been able to get that game. Not once. We try every week.
So here's a game that is so important, according to this article, that is is changing the entire environment of gaming--and we can't get it.
This is the normal course of events. There were a couple of recent Christmas's where Target and Walmart had completely bought out the complete run of a game.
Forget trying to get toys if there is shortage. We either never get them or don't get them until the season is long over. Another example is how numbers work in the big boys favor is that when they get cases of toys. In every case, there are the hot toys and the cold toys. Obviously, the hot ones sell first--just like what happens to us. But in their case, they get a rebate for the unsold toys. We get a full wall of unsaleable toys. We aren't stupid--we'd order Boba Fett and Darth Vader and the other hot characters if we could, instead of a bunch of background robots no one wants, but they only put a few of those in every case.
Another example are graphic novels when a movie is made. To be clear, Sin City sold only in comic shops for year and years. To the extent that anyone even knew what Sin City was, it was because of us. When the movie came out, not a single copy was available the the comic stores for the entire season.
So the next time you go into a small store and they don't have what you want, please remember it isn't because we're stupid or inefficient, it's because the system is designed to serve the big boys first.
We are an afterthought.