Not surprisingly, it also helps more of their dollars go into the pockets of small shop owners. As the economy improves and consumers are inundated with discounts, analysts have repeatedly said that those retailers with unique merchandise will be able to charge higher prices.
Though small retailers haven't been completely immune from marking down their products, Poelma said he's seeing larger discounts from the big-box players, and smaller discounts from small retailers.
"They can't play the big price war game that they tried in the past," he said, referring to the years after the financial crisis when a number of businesses went under. "They're differentiating their product as opposed to just discounting their product."
Small retailers are also benefiting from time-starved shoppers who don't have time to navigate large department or discount stores. Several large-format retailers are now replicating this small-box feel, with companies including Target, Wal-Mart, Saks Fifth Avenue and Kohl's all having opened or planning stores that are a fraction the size of their usual locations.
"Ease is a critical factor in successful retailing today," said Joe Jackman, CEO of Jackman Reinvents.