New York City is like a jungle- the big banks are the huge trees that create the whole ecosystem, the lawyers, doctors and consultants are the jaguars that hunt in their shade, little bodegas are ants that live among the branches, and the bike messengers who deliver sandwiches- they’re the mites that live on the ants.
Is this analogy going too far? Maybe. But the point is that one walk through Manhattan shows that every economic niche is exploited, even the tiniest ones. Its dense, competitive and balanced.
In my neighborhood, there are three grocery stores- Frank’s, Ozzie’s Fresh Market and Key Food. Frank’s is most expensive but it’s a mom-and-pop looking place that has been here forever. People are loyal to it and it has things that are hard to find like onion dip. Ozzie’s Fresh Market is new and snazzy looking and feels sort of like Whole Foods. And then there’s Key Food- an inexpensive New York chain with 324 locations. And it’s less than two blocks from these other two.
The grocery business is super competitive; $.20 on a bag of pasta can change people’s shopping habits. So why hasn’t Key Food put these other two out of business? Nine flights of stairs might have something to do with it. See, my neighborhood is one of the highest points in Manhattan- it’s on a bluff over the Hudson River. And Key Food, is one block from the bottom of 135 stairs that take you down the bluff of Hudson Heights to the valley where Key Food sits on Broadway. So shopping at Key Foods may save you a few bucks but you’re going to have to carry your groceries back up those stairs.
As a marketer, I work with clients on how to position their businesses for success and we often talk about the four p’s of marketing- product, price, promotion and place. The way these three grocery stores relate to one another demonstrates the four p’s vividly, especially the one about “place.” These laws of marketing explain why Frank’s and Ozzie’s are safe. They’re protected by gravity.