It's awesome being an independent retailer! Embrace your uniqueness and take full advantage of your position in the market.
Those large chain stores look the same up and down the country and largely they're all planned out using the same cookie-cutter format. There might have been a budget thrown at market research to figure a little bit out about your local demographic, but they'll only have scratched the surface. Your store is unique and offers something that can't be found everywhere. You're adding value to your local community and working with other independent retailers to make your town centre stand out in a world of repeats. You could be the main reason some people visit your area. You're familiar with the locals and you understand what they want and need.
You can offer a level of service that the multi-nationals just can’t get to. This might be product knowledge and a real understanding of the different products you offer, with the ability to draw comparisons and list the benefits of each, or the service might come from your knowledge of your customers on a personal level. Your ability to remember your regular customers and make recommendations based on their history with you is the sort of thing that only comes from the day-to-day relationship building, and although online shopping might try hard to replicate this, making recommendations based on your previous purchases or search history, the real effect gets lost in translation somewhere. An email campaign from a large company, personalised to include your name at the top is not the same as walking in to your local independent retailer and being greeted by name.
You are free to make quick decisions and react to market trends or news without a lengthy process of debate and input from members of the board. Keep an eye on the news and use social media to encourage debate on topics that have some connection to your business. Create a space in your window display or a-board that you can use to react quickly to current affairs. Stay impartial wherever possible and use these spaces to ask your customers questions or encourage them to debate amongst themselves. Strong opinions and religious or political viewpoints can alienate entire segments of your customer base so limit your input to facts.
You can get that new product ordered and on the shelf (and indeed off the shelf!) before employees at the head office of your local chain store competitor has had the chance to prepare an internal report on its suitability for inclusion on the agenda of their next shareholder meeting.