All's Fair in Love and... Business
When it comes to improving your business, gaining the most customers you can, and turning a tidy profit, is anything game? Some business owners believe so. Yet others say there’s a point where you can go too far. In the business world, do you need to be a bit ruthless to get ahead? And is it being ruthless, or just taking advantage of the situation?
In the past few months, I’ve come across a couple examples of one business using another business’ downfall to its advantage. One example is how a chain grocery store in our area handled a nearby grocery store closing its doors. At this particular corner, there were three large grocery stores. Although we are in a growing community, it’s not hard to see how three grocery stores (that essentially sell the same things) would have a hard time competing on the same corner. As would eventually be expected, one of them—Dominick’s—closed. Shortly after that, I noticed this big sign outside of Jewel-Osco, one of the remaining stores. On one hand, this can be construed simply as a friendly welcome to customers who suddenly found themselves looking for a new grocery store at which to shop. But if you analyze it a bit further, this can also be seen as a subtle way to snag these floating customers before they become dedicated to another grocery. Is it a friendly gesture? An outright dig at the out-of-business store? Or a subtle strategy to bring in more customers?
The other example I came across involved liquor stores in neighboring towns. The town of St. Charles had recently increased its liquor tax. A liquor store in the next town over took advantage of the neighboring tax increase by encouraging people to shop at its store to avoid the higher prices. Obviously, this tactic is a little more blatant in playing off the hardship of others, but is it necessarily a bad thing? You could argue that this liquor store is merely helping its customers find ways to save money.
What do you think? Is anything fair game in business? Should it be an all-out, gloves-off competition between you and other businesses? Or should you expect to follow some sort of fellow business-owners’ code and not purposely use another store’s hardships to your advantage. Or, as might be argued in these two cases, is it really just providing more service to your customers?