Small is powerful believe it!

The above rallying cry is familiar to anyone who has watched The Save-Ums weekday mornings. For those of you without a five-year-old in the house, the Save-Ums are wee creatures that perform great deeds, despite — or sometimes because of — their diminutive stature.

The purpose of the program is to empower little kids, but not-so-big companies can take solace in its message too. And in this issue we have two articles bringing glad tidings to small and midsize merchants. Allyson DeMatteo and Christopher Walsh of investment bank SSG Capital Advisors discuss how the M&A market is expected to embrace smaller firms this year (“Not for the big guys only,” page 30). And one of our cover stories, “When bigger isn’t better,” not only shows how targeting smaller businesses can reap big profits but also gives examples of how smaller marketers can compete by focusing on service.

You’d think that the big guys, with the vast budgets at their disposal, would be able to outgun the smaller players on service as well as on price. But we can all cite examples of when such was not the case. In late November, for instance, I ordered two copies of the 9-lb. Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker from Amazon.com. One book was to be delivered to me, so that I could hand-deliver it as a Hanukkah gift. The other copy I wanted shipped directly to in-laws in Chicago, but not until closer to Christmas. But Amazon, despite its gargantuan resources, did not provide the option of ordering the book now for delivery at a later date — an option I’d assumed it had, given that I’d seen numerous smaller merchants offer it. The only choices I had, it seems, were to have my in-laws receive their present nearly four weeks before Christmas or to have the book sent to me so that I could ship it to them at a more appropriate date. I opted for the former (did I mention that the book weighs 9 lbs.?), but it wasn’t the choice I’d hoped for.

Conversely, one of my best holiday shopping experiences was with a very small cataloger, The Unemployed Philosophers Guild. I ordered a Disappearing Civil Liberties Mug online; when I received it, less than a week before Hanukkah, it was broken. I e-mailed the company, asking what I needed to do to get a replacement and if it was at all possible to receive it in time for the holiday. I expected the Unemployed Philosophers to demand that I send them back the shattered mug before they’d send me a new one; instead they sent me a new one pronto, no questions asked, and it arrived just in time.

All of which illustrates the adage about good things coming in small packages. I’m sure it was an adage that the parcel carrier who delivered The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker to my in-laws wished I’d taken literally.

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