Thrifty consumers equal smart consumers, and since 2008, consumers have been getting smarter about their money every day. The shopping hasn’t ceased, but the way people shop certainly has changed and smart retailers have adjusted to that fact.

“Everything in the economy has slowed down in the last five to seven years, and we slowed down, too, until we knew exactly where we wanted to go,” explains Jim King, president of framing and art supplies retailer Aaron Brothers. “We made the decision that we needed a growth strategy and we needed to reinvent our stores. The chain is a 65-year-old chain. It’s had its ups and downs from a sales and profit perspective, but to be successful in the future we needed a new store prototype and growth strategy.”

Read more: Aaron Brothers Inc.

When you leave a Yumz Gourmet Frozen Yogurt® store, you will see a sign on the door that reads “Thousands of combinations… See you tomorrow!” With great taste, more than 53 flavors, 80 toppings and new flavors introduced regularly, Yumz Gourmet Frozen Yogurt knows you won’t be able to try it all in just one visit.

At the heart of Yumz is the taste. Matt Thelander, founder of the company, had visited a number of frozen yogurt stores before the idea to start his own concept started taking shape. “I knew we could greatly improve on the standard frozen yogurt store concept,” he recalls. “I spent a lot of time doing research before presenting my concept to anybody.”

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When new technologies emerge to enhance the movie-going experience, UltraStar Cinemas is an early adopter, Executive Vice President of Operations Damon Rubio says. He explains that its seven locations specialize in providing more than just movies to their audiences.

“We spend a lot of time focusing on providing ... a great entertainment experience,” he explains. “That [covers] everything from pristine facilities to amenities to great technology to great guest services.”

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Founded in Mount Pleasant, Mich., in 1977 by Richard Woodrick, Ric’s Food Center has expanded by acquisitions to four locations. Now, under the management of President Andy Woodrick, the founder’s son, Ric’s has built a new location from scratch in Rockford, Mich.

The new store retains the aspects of Ric’s Food Center that have kept the business healthy for more than 35 years. “We have full perishables, a full bakery, a deli, a quality meat department and a quality produce department,” Woodrick says. “So it was really an aesthetic difference that we were able to achieve. It’s a very attractive store. It presents itself fairly high-end in the presentation, whereas our other stores were existing facilities.”

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The grocery business is more than just a job for Scott Dunn – it's his family legacy. “I learned the business from the ground up and [have] done everything there is to do in the grocery store, including bagging groceries,” says Dunn, president of Piggly Wiggly Central, headquartered in Pinetops, N.C. “I grew up in the business.”

Dunn's family has owned grocery stores since the 1920s, when his grandfather started Dunn's Grocery, a small store in Pinetops. That business was later purchased by Dunn's father, Marshall Dunn, who in 1968 bought into the Piggly Wiggly franchise. Today, the family's franchise encompasses nine locations in Pinetops, Ahoskie, Farmville, Grifton, Jackson, Rocky Mount and Wilson, N.C.  Allen Jackson, Dunn’s partner in the company, also has strong family ties to the grocery business as he is a second generation store owner.

Read more: Piggly Wiggly

Conventional medicine and natural remedies are often relegated to separate sections of a pharmacy or even separate retail businesses. But just as natural and organic foods have now become a fixture in conventional supermarkets, Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy is filling this niche by combining traditional prescription filling with natural and complementary health solutions.

Now operating 24 pharmacies in five western states – California, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington – the chain distinguishes itself from vitamin and nutrition retail competitors by staffing its stores with practitioners who have training in a variety of disciplines. Their fields include nutrition, skin care, homeopathy, naturopathy, Ayurveda – a traditional form of medicine from India – acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and herbal studies.

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The word “mother” recalls many adjectives in people’s minds: kind, gracious and loving, for instance. Even more profoundly, it reminds people of someone they can trust because a mother’s instincts will never steer you wrong. Also, mothers tend to make really good food. If you put those last two attributes together in retail form, you might just come up with a small Southern California chain that’s been providing good food that people can trust for the past 35 years.

Read more: Mother's Market & Kitchen

Being an independent retailer isn’t easy. Corporate chain stores and big-box retailers are around practically every corner in most cities and towns, and an increasing number of consumers are turning to their computer screens to satisfy much of their shopping needs.

Managing the competitive and changing retail landscape can be a challenge even for large companies with deep financial resources. For smaller, independent retailers without extensive marketing budgets or technical knowledge, surviving is even more difficult.

Read more: Mega Group Inc.