This study was motivated by a desire to develop strategic guidelines tailored to solve the unique problems small, rural retailers face in today’s competitive retail environment. Because there is limited understanding of the actual experience of rural retailers’ operations and experiences, it was necessary to explore and accurately capture the experience from participants’ perspectives. The objective of the study was to provide an in-depth understanding of the rural small retailer’s perceptions of the business environment, merchandising strategies, challenges, and opportunities. In-depth interviews were conducted with eight small business owners from a rural county in Minnesota. A criterion-based sampling approach was used to recruit the participants from a variety of business types. Five emergent themes were identified: localism, experiential retailing, niche market, awareness, and marketing strategies. These themes provided a deeper understanding of the actual experience that rural retailers face in today’s competitive retail landscape. Extension educators can use these findings to help educate retailers about future best business practices and develop tailored technical support programs catered to the retailer’s specific industry needs.



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