“Great Harvest Bakery in Burke, VA” We often hear of small businesses deathly scared when big boys – particularly Wal-mart – come to town. And they have every reason to be: big businesses have deeper pockets, offer wider goods selection, and have tighter relationships with suppliers that allow them to give deep discounted prices.
So it is very refreshing to see a small business thrive despite having Wal-Mart as a next-door neighbor.
Great Harvest Bread in Burke, VA is a few steps away from Wal-Mart, yet their baked breads, cupcakes, cookies and even pies are almost always sold out. Every day! There is always a constant stream of customers in the store buying their delicious goodies. Come in late in the day and most likely your favorite bread is sold-out.
A friend who told me that she only eats bread from that bakery introduced me to Great Harvest. Intrigued, I went to the bakery and bought several goodies. Their breads are indeed tasty, and the staffs are friendly. Today, their cinnamon chip breads are a must-have in our daily diet.
So what makes this bakery thrive and compete well with Wal-Mart? Here are some observations, which I think are critical in the success of a small bakery business:
1. Differentiate and add value to your products. Basic breads typically enjoy low profits. The key is to make the bread and bakery products different from other bakeries, particularly those sold in Wal-mart and nearby groceries. It is important to differentiate the bakery products from key competitors, one way of which is through the use of herbs and other flavorings.
Great Harvest’s breads include Apple Scrapple, Whole Wheat Cinnamon Chip, Tomato Herb and Cheese and seasonal Pumpkin Swirl bread – no simple white bread here. This strategy allows Great Harvest to position its bakery differently from the big chains and grocery stores, allowing them to charge premium prices for their products.
2. Tap the niche market. An important strategy for the success of a bakery business is to find a growing niche, and offer excellent products to that segment. There are bakeries that offer allergy-free products, while other offer gluten-free products.
One of the fastest growing markets in the bakery industry in the United States today is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, vegan, and organic products. Great Harvest offers a number of gluten free products from plain bread to cinnamon chip breads to carrot cakes and even muffins. Given the growing number of people who prefer healthier food alternatives such as gluten-free products, offering desserts and sweets catering to these markets could be another means to differentiate the business from the competition.
3. Freebies can be a big draw. To rise above the competition, Great Harvest offers free samplings of their breads and cakes – everyday! The store welcomes customers and invites them to sample the breads and other goodies, with free jams and coffee to boot. In fact, some Wal-mart employees have made the bakery their destination during their break times to sample the free snacks.
4. Be part of the community. Great Harvest celebrates being part of the community. In return, the community embraces the bakery and supports them. Hence, while many small businesses are taking a beating, the business continues to thrive and offer their excellent products.
5. Offer loyalty programs. Loyalty programs can encourage repeat business — even for small businesses. Great Harvest rewards those who repeatedly purchases from them. After 10 bread purchases, you can get a loaf of bread for free. And trust me, it works like a charm on my husband who never forgets Great Harvest’s pink card in his wallet.