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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January 2018 | HARDWARE RETAILING 67 several retailers about how they fulfill custom requirements. We also got some perspective from outside the hardware industry by speaking with pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel. He is known for running a high-end cake business in New York City that fulfills extravagant special orders from exacting clients. Ben-Israel offered some tips that home improvement retailers can use in their businesses. Starting Off Completing special orders is about more than building materials and lumber supplies. While customization often takes place within the world of homebuilders and renovators, any customer looking for an item that isn't normally stocked or found in a warehouse can be considered a special order. Yet even with a smaller order, such as a specialized piece of hardware, managing customer expectations starts early. For Star Lumber in Wichita, Kansas, the special-order process begins with making sure the customer, salespeople and other staffers are all clear on the requirements of the product, its measurements and how much it will cost to fulfill. Mistakes made in the early stages of an order can be some of the most devastating, says Star Lumber general manager Brian Schawe, which is why he and his team put so much emphasis on getting the small details of an order on point in the early stages. Star Lumber features an extensive showroom in its Maple and West Street location, one of three retail locations in Wichita. The showroom gives customers an early look at options like materials, finishes and hardware for items like windows, cabinets, countertops and special-order paints. Star Lumber has nine locations total, offering a wide array of building materials and products. "Anything we don't normally stock is considered a special order. We have several teams that are a part of the process, from an inside design team that can draw up renovations to outside sales that can be involved in new construction," Schawe says. All special orders begin with an agreement sheet that lists the exact details of each project or order. To ensure these requirements are listed correctly, Star Lumber sends an outside sales associate or a trusted partner among its renovation contacts to do all measurements on a project. This process allows the order to get off to a good start, lessening the chances of mistakes further along. Payment is also handled before the customer and sales representative sign off on the special order. Whether assembling an order for custom cabinets or ordering a hard-to-find tool for a customer, special orders can be tricky to navigate. Starting with clear communication about expectations and costs can keep things in order.

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