Hardware Retailing

JAN 2018

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 | January 2018 48 The first order of business was to start filling shelves and bring back those best-selling A and B items, which were often missing. Then, working with his wholesaler, Coté began sorting through planograms and assortments to make sure categories were complete. He also took advantage of dating opportunities when buying products and special buys he found at markets— anything that would help him stretch his dollars to regain momentum. Another project was to work through the store's inventory system to clear out dead items and get a correct account of everything he had. "We discovered about $30,000 worth of items that were not in our store but were on the records," he says. "There were some inventory controls we needed to get back in line." Next, he began tackling the store's layout. A cash register near the front of the store meant any customers waiting to cash out would be blocking the entrance. Coté relocated that service counter to open up the front of the store and chose that area to merchandise housewares. High-end housewares, he discovered, were popular with his customer base. Other cosmetic work gave the store a brighter, more inviting appearance. Reestablishing the Community's Trust Bringing a failing store back to life isn't just about getting the numbers back to where they should be. In most cases, the other half of the battle is restoring the community's trust. Coté needed to convince customers who may have decided to stay away to come back. "Almost immediately, I set up a Facebook page for the store and started using that to talk about the changes and promote the products we were getting in," he says. Soon after that, he bought a few ad spots on the local radio station, which were instantly well received. He also developed a website, a first for the store. The most effective changes, however, needed to go deeper than a few radio spots or Facebook posts. Presenting a new brand to the community would help him put a new face on the store. It was a not-so-subtle way of announcing that a new store ownership was making a fresh start. Coté started a process of redesigning the store's logo, keeping the existing name but presenting it in a new way. He also developed store uniforms and began selling logo wear to the community. All of those pieces working together helped give Osterville House & Garden a new reputation. "People in the community were beginning to see we were making changes," he says. "But having a new logo was a way to set ourselves apart from our checkered history. When we put the new sign out front and employees started wearing uniforms, I think it started to sink in for customers that the change was real. They didn't just get lucky when they visited us and found what they needed—they could rely on us once more." Coté also got heavily involved in his local community. He took a seat on the town council and became involved in several community improvement projects. That public life gave him the opportunity to serve and give back his resources, but also showed he and his business were serious about being a part of the local community. In 2014, he was honored as one of NRHA's Young Retailers of the Year. Seven years later, the numbers show that all of that hard work paid off. At the end of 2010, when he purchased the business, Coté's annual sales were less than $600,000 for his 7,500-square-foot store. Now, annual sales top $1.2 million. After stabilizing his inventory levels of everyday hardware items, Coté developed niches in high-end items, including grills and housewares. " I think it started to sink in for customers that the change was real. They could rely on us once more. " —James Coté, Osterville House & Garden

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