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Boro businesses prepare for invasion of chain stores
Customer service will be key
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            It is easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding a new retail business opening in Statesboro. It adds to our shopping options, and it also makes Bulloch County retail more attractive to its neighbors who come to shop here.

            However, in all of the excitement we tend to forget - or at least, I know that I do -the impact that each new addition has on those who took the step before them. Therefore, I just wanted to take a step back, and ask two of our local retailers how they intend to handle the new competition they will face when two of the big box retailers in Statesboro Crossing open their doors this fall.

            Pets & People and the Book and Cranny are bracing for Petco and Books-A-Million, respectively. Pets & People owner James Sullivan said he knew that a national retailer such as Petco would open here eventually.

            "Some company is going to think, like we did in 1999, that Statesboro is a great market and want to have a store here," Sullivan said. "It wasn't a matter of if, but rather a matter of when. We have heard rumors for years."

            Sullivan said he and his wife have tried to run their store like they had direct competition all along.

            "By keeping our prices in line with the large retailers, we knew that we could compete when they came," he said. "Also, we have tried to put in different services that those retailers don't necessarily have. From pure breed puppies to helping the humane society through our in-store adoption service, we have tried to put programs in place to keep our customers here."

            Sullivan said he and his staff will have to provide the highest level of customer service that they can. Even so, he knows that his store will be impacted.

            "I have heard that the first 90 days they are open will have a 'stinging' effect on our business," Sullivan said. "But after that, there can be a regeneration effect in which the public's interest in pets overall increases, thus bringing more business for everybody. We just have to keep doing what we do, and get better and better at it."

            Debbie Campbell, co-owner of the Book and Cranny, also feels customer service will be the key to their continued success when Books-A-Million comes on line.

            "We special order books for customers every day," she said. "Larger chains don't usually order books the same day that they are requested. We will bend over backwards to get what the customer needs as quickly as we can."

            Campbell said they have strived to create a very comfortable and inviting atmosphere in their store.

            "We have a motto which is our customers are family," Campbell said. "We have tried to create a space where you can browse and are afforded the ability to do that undisturbed. Bookstores invoke all of one senses, and shopping for books can be very personal. We think it is important to give people their space to do that."

            How does Campbell feel about the impending competition from one of the "big boys"?  "Once I got over the initial shock, I realized that we will have to continue to focus on customer service and trust that our motto will carry us through."