Big Box Not Necessarily Best Bet

When buying anything from furniture to electronics, consumers are often inclined to turn to their nearby big box store as a first stop in comparison shopping. Although big box retailers do offer competitive prices, they may not be the best option for consumers trying to stay on budget or close to it. Boutique shops, local merchants and independent online retailers, such as StudentMarket.com, an established retailer of budget-approved furniture and home goods, often offer competitive prices and better overall service than bigger chains.

Good Things Come in Smaller Packages

Price is a major factor in where people shop. Millions of people turn to big box retailers thinking they will get the best prices, but a little research can yield other findings. While some bigger chains may offer doorbuster sales luring customers in with the "item du jour," in general, prices on most everyday items are the same or higher than other retailers. All it takes is an online comparison of a certain product to show the similarity in pricing.

According to University of Utah assistant marketing professors Arul and Himanshu Mishra, it's common to find similar pricing on most items in many big box stores. Therefore, these retailers use big-ticket items to attract customers, who then just stay in the store to get the remaining higher-margin items and accessories on their lists.

Shopping in smaller stores or independent online retailers also may be preferable to many consumers. The trend is to revitalize "Main Street America" by shopping smaller retailers and Mom & Pop establishments. Some companies actually offer incentives to do so. During the 2010 holiday season, American Express credited a portion of customers' accounts on items purchased at small businesses on the Saturday after Black Friday. There is a new initiative to rename that day "Small Business Saturday" in an effort to encourage more consumers to shop small businesses, specialty and boutique retailers.

Better Service, Low Prices

Many shoppers, particularly younger shoppers with less disposable income, are under the mistaken impression that big box retailers are the best way to shop due to widespread advertising by these retail giants. This type of shopping, however, could come at the expense of poor customer service or limited selection. Many independent retailers, including StudentMarket.com, offer price matching to remain competitive with the larger merchants in the area, and it's hard to beat independent retailers on customer service or the availability of a wide selection of distinct items.

StudentMarket.com offers many of the features and online influences shoppers desire when looking for furniture to outfit dorms, apartments and homes. The company understands that younger shoppers have different needs from older consumers, therefore pricing and selection remains competitive with many other retailers. What's more, the company caters to shoppers at all stages in their lives. It offers everything from a college student's first desk to a homeowner's formal dining room set.

To save consumers time and money, the company scours several competing retailers to make sure their prices offer extra value above and beyond low prices. If a shopper sees an item for less, StudentMarket.com can get them a better deal almost every time.

Plus, the site has helpful tools that allow shoppers to customize product results by size, material, theme, and many other desires.

"Consumers are extremely focused on getting the best value, as well as having access to informative product reviews," said Oren Milgram, President of StudentMarket.com. "Multiple online images, the ability to zoom in to see detail, a variety of flexible payment options, and a consumer-friendly return policy are just a few of the many other benefits of shopping this site."

What sets StudentMarket.com and other smaller retailers apart from big box retailers is their dedication to service and providing customers with extensive product information, including customer product reviews, to help them make an informed decision. The company offers knowledgeable product specialists based in the U.S. that can help shoppers find just what they're looking for. The site offers a diversity of merchandise that generally surpasses big box retailers.

Smaller Crowds and Fewer Hassles

Another advantage to shopping smaller retailers or even online is that shoppers don't have to drive long distances, fight crowds, endure long lines, or hunt for parking spots, making for a stress-free shopping experience that's also smart from an environmental standpoint.

Because of a more specialized selection, dedicated product specialists also may be more knowledgeable about the stock and functionality of certain items.

Local Gives More Back

A September 2009 study in Civic Economics titled "Thinking Outside the Box: A Report on Independent Merchants and the Local Economy," reviewed financial data from 15 locally owned businesses in New Orleans and compared these stores' impact on the local economy to that of an average SuperTarget® store. The study found that only 16 percent of the money spent at a SuperTarget stays in the local economy. In contrast, the local retailers returned more than 32 percent of their revenue to the local economy.

In many cases, local businesses also shop local, equipping their stores and building their Web sites with resources from other local companies. For example, through various affiliations, StudentMarket.com supports many U.S.-based furniture businesses, including several North Carolina furniture manufacturers. This means more money is being kept in the neighborhood and in the country.

Customers who normally lean toward bigger retailers may want to experience the benefits of shopping outside the box. To learn more about finding furniture that offers comfort and style, visit www.StudentMarket.com.