What makes "specialty retailers" special?
The special shopping experience they deliver.
It doesn't matter what a retailer is selling – tires, hardware, electronics, books, apparel. Or, how big or small they are; Nordstrom, after all, is a specialty store!
A specialty retailer's distinctive competitive edge is the special value they add to the shopping experience.
See above for some quick examples of the difference between just "customer service" – which, increasingly, is customer self-service – and the specialty store retail experience.