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 71 expensive cake, but not that expensive!" We learned to avoid misunderstandings and learn from those mistakes. Hardware Tip: Details, details, details! Assuming that you and a customer are on the same page is how small misunderstandings become big headaches. HR: What are some of the things you focus on when determining price? RBI: So much goes into a design, because everything we work with is from scratch. Even the price of ingredients fluctuates, so there are many variables to consider. We offer a customized experience, and clients wanting that experience have a certain expectation. I like to say to people, you get what you pay for. We are proud of our original designs, and our people are highly skilled. Customer attitudes are shifting to appreciate that, and a reputation of quality for a small business is more important every day. Hardware Tip: Special orders, by definition, have a tendency to come with a larger price tag, which puts an emphasis on delivering exactly what is required and with the highest level of service. HR: What are your keys for creating positive customer interactions? RBI: Sometimes you start a design and realize something isn't going to work. Sometimes fewer people RSVP to an event than you anticipated. One time, a cake was designed to match the bride's dress, which she kept changing, meaning we had to alter the final color several times. People have good and bad days. It happens with any merchant, and that's why we have contracts that specify what the client should expect. Our job is to make the client feel good and be happy. Anyone working with customers knows this—that it's important to make adjustments to satisfy. It's nice when people call you an artist—but we're in the service industry. We're selling goods. We're mindful of that. No matter the superlatives, the cake has to speak for itself. Hardware Tip: At the end of the day, your business is there to solve a problem. Whether it be supplying the materials for a home remodel or a hammer that is only stocked on the other side of the country, delivering on promises and working with a customer to complete the project are some of the best ways to build repeat business. Make sure customers walk out satisfied and they'll be back through your doors. Mawson Lumber and Hardware's connections come from years of experience in the market. From pre-internet methods like cold calls and old-school word of mouth, persistent searching has yielded Fees a network of connections to mills and manufacturers that can source the kind of specialized materials his customers are looking for. "Especially for some of my older contacts and builders, they don't want to take no for an answer even though some of these materials are rare finds. I don't want to come up empty, because they'll go somewhere else, find it, and think 'Mawson must not have worked very hard.' Those kinds of associations can quickly become problems," Fees says. Training Time Another connection point concerning vendors is training for retail employees. Star Lumber keeps its sales force continually trained on its product selection via vendor-supplied training sessions and keeps its staff up to date on the latest changes in the products available. "As a company, you have to stand behind that product and stand behind your work with a customer. If you have a good rapport with the client and the vendor, you can turn mistakes into good conclusions. Mistakes will happen, but if you leave both sides pleased, they'll be there in the future," Schawe says. Many factors can play into deciding on a vendor to supply an order. Factors to consider, Photo credits: Kris Mae, Maggie Marguerite Studios

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