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Cities as warehouses: How neighbourhood retailers can compete in the digital age

Cities as warehouses: How neighbourhood retailers can compete in the digital age

Today’s local retailers are finding it difficult to compete with big box stores, national chains and internet giants. From Best Buy and Staples to Alibaba, Amazon and eBay, the convenience, selection and price of these brands are drawing customers away from neighbourhood stores.


As a local small business, you might be thinking: How can I compete with these giants, and my local competition? You might find the notion daunting – or even futile. But it isn’t time to shut your doors and give up the fight just yet!

It’s time to redefine competition
Closing up shop isn’t your only option. Have you thought about uniting with your neighbours and joining forces against the chains and internet giants?

It’s easy to see the shop across the street as competition. They’re right in front of you, every day, and you can see those shoppers coming out with their purchases! But whatever business you may lose to that neighbour is small compared to what you’re losing to larger competitors.

It’s time to stop thinking of the shops in your neighbourhood as competition, and start thinking of them as allies.

Work together with your neighbourhood
The simplest way to start is to work with your local business improvement association or merchants’ association and get to know your neighbours. These organizations are dedicated to the wellbeing of local neighbourhoods, from planting trees to helping businesses succeed. Many look for volunteers from local businesses for their boards and committees, and that’s a great way to start bringing your neighbourhood together.

But as technology moves to the forefront of the shopping experience – both for shoppers and business owners – there will be new and exciting ways for local businesses to unite against the big boys.

Transform your neighbourhood into a digital big-box store
What if all the shops in your neighbourhood were seen together, as whole, rather than individual stores? A single destination that has everything.

Your first thought might be, “sounds like a shopping mall!” And you’re right. But let’s take it one step further. What if you could use technology to create a single, easy-to-navigate digital destination for shoppers – and an integrated, easy-to-use backend where local retailers can manage their inventories and prices. Participating stores and the corresponding inventory and pricing information can be geo-localized based on the shopper – thus providing the buyer with the best and closest option for price and product – effectively levelling the playing field of giant ecommerce players.

This “digital warehouse” could serve as both a shop and a showroom. With integrated ecommerce, consumers can buy directly from you online – or can use the website to see what you have in stock, and come in store to see, touch, try on and buy.

Benefits to you include:

  • Greater visibility into who’s shopping online, what they’re looking for, when they’re looking for it
  • Simplified entry into ecommerce and digital inventory management
  • Competition shifts – from neighbourhoods to national


Benefits to shoppers include:

  • Single, integrated place to conduct local, pre-purchase research – on their own terms
  • Increased confidence and trust in local retailers
  • Choice to buy online or in-store


Many shoppers are inclined to shop locally, if price and selection are close to those found elsewhere and if the experience is compelling and accessible. The digital warehouse merges the convenience of digital with the shared human experience of local retail. It makes businesses more accessible and gives shoppers more options.

Next steps
The digital warehouse isn’t an overnight solution. But working more closely with your neighbours is something you can start tomorrow. Get in touch with your BIA and start uniting your neighbourhood!

Get involved


Show your support for shopping in your community by displaying a Shop The Neighbourhood window cling in your storefront, or a digital banner on your website. Get yours for free today!

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About Shop The Neighbourhood


Shop The Neighbourhood is a Yellow Pages initiative to encourage local shopping and support for small businesses. Shop The Neighbourhood raises awareness of the large-scale push from retailers both online and across the border which moves dollars away from the small businesses and directly impacts the health of our neighbourhoods and our communities.

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