As an independent retailer, owning a business in this still sluggish economy is stressful especially when confronted with the big box chains and their push to get customers through their doors.  They may be intimidating to you, with their low price focus, or possibly their seemingly endless selections for customers.  But I would argue that they are not your competition for your customers!  There are areas of your business that you do better than those big retailers, and those are the reasons your customers come through your doors .
You know your customers.  Those big stores DO NOT.  Your customers are looking for special items, and sometimes gifts.   Many people need help choosing “just the right gift.”  Especially for the person who has everything.  This is where you come in!  You know your customers and your merchandise reflects what people want.  You are the expert on your merchandise and can offer personalized assistance to those shoppers.
You know your merchandise.  You have hand selected it!  You are not summer help hired by the local department store trying to make your way through piles and racks of merchandise.  You know why you ordered it for your store, so you can speak to it and passionately direct your customers to what they want or need for themselves or their gift lists.
You know, or you learn, about what your customers want and you can actually react to their needs.  Unlike the big stores that have placed huge orders for their merchandise months and months in advance, you work with smaller orders and can maneuver through a season more efficiently.  Those big stores are like a huge barge slowly moving forward into each season.  Once that barge gets moving (or those orders are placed) they cannot stop or react in time to make an impact.  As an independent retailer, you can listen to your customers and see what they are “telling” you by what they are buying and react like a little speed boat and make changes.
Finally, you have the means to communicate with your customers much more directly than those big chains do.  You have street addresses and email addresses that they have willingly given to you.  Use this precious commodity wisely!  Track what your customers are buying and communicate with them when similar or related merchandise hits your floor.  Make suggestions for them based on what they have liked.
The bottom line is that you can take all of the positive aspects of your business and emphasize them!  Those big box chains may have an advantage of price because of their size but there is nothing that they do that you cannot do, or learn to do better.  They track their sales and their customer activities and make future plans based on it.  You can do that too – and then you can follow through more personally than those big guys.  And that is the reason your customers have shopped and will continue to shop at your business!