Hardware Retailing

AUG 2017

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | August 2017 88 Flash Flood Wilson Carter Supply Co. Denton, North Carolina A nne Carter Bean, manager of Wilson Carter Supply Co., has seen firsthand how flash floods can quickly devastate small businesses. A few days after Christmas 2015, she and her employees struggled to clear rapidly rising water from the store her family has owned since 1965. They were soon overwhelmed as 16 inches of water swept through the store, covering lower electric outlets, waterlogging inventory left on lower shelves and warping ledgers her family had kept throughout the store's history. As the floodwaters receded, Bean was overwhelmed by the damage and the amount of work her store faced in the storm's aftermath. Half an inch of water remained, bringing with it a coating of mud, silt and debris. The flood had displaced inventory and seeped through wall paneling, which would need to be removed to prevent mold. Despite the wreckage, Bean and her team set to work to restore the business. Contact the Community "It was yucky and rainy, and when the rain kept coming down, I just started snapping photos," Bean says. She posted pictures to Facebook as soon as the store began to flood. Continuing to make social media updates turned out to be a vital part of keeping her customers informed about the store's status and inspired volunteers to visit and help with the cleanup. Customers kept shopping because they knew the business was still open, and volunteers knew the staff needed fans, generators and manpower to run the store and salvage any inventory they could. Photos like the ones Bean uploaded are also useful for insurance claims and provide a way for your community to connect with ongoing cleanup efforts. Bean planned to close the store temporarily, but didn't have to. Steady support from volunteers allowed the staff to keep the business operational, and customers who were looking for items to aid their own flood recovery continued to spend money at the store. "We actually had customers that came in to buy stuff even as we were cleaning up," she says. "We had about 60 people who came to help in some way, shape or form, and it just blew my mind." Bean decided to display sales bins of heavily discounted items that had slight flood damage, but were still usable. The bins included an assortment of paint sundries, safety gloves and electrical items that didn't include internal wiring. "We got something out of them instead of just tossing them in the dumpster," she says. Inform Your Suppliers Bean recommends that other retailers contact their suppliers immediately after a disaster strikes. "I sent out a letter to all of my suppliers letting them know what had happened," she says. "They were extremely supportive in terms of giving us a little more leeway than we normally would have." Bean says it was about three months before her family's hardware store truly felt back to business as usual, and she credits her community's response for helping the store bounce back. "For me, making people aware of the situation went further than I ever could have imagined," she says. Wilson Carter Supply Co. in Denton, North Carolina, survived a flood in 2015 with the help of store employees and devoted community members.

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