Hardware Retailing

APR 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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April 2018 | HARDWARE RETAILING 79 Know When to Rent One of the key tenets of retail sales should be familiar to most in the hardware industry: The customer is always right. Cottin is quick to set this standard aside when training her employees in the rental business, believing that adage to be a dangerous way to approach a rental business. "You don't have to rent to everyone," she says. "It can be one of the most frustrating parts of the rental business, for us and the customer. We have a strong opinion when it comes to rental that if you can't provide the items we need, such as a valid license, it's better to not rent the item out." Kasson Hardware Hank and Cottin's Hardware & Rental both established rental procedures that have kept them from experiencing too much shrinkage through lost or stolen items. A driver's license with the renter's current address and a valid credit card are standard procedure for renting equipment, with a heavy emphasis in favor of local addresses. Some warning signs may include addresses too far away from the community, IDs that have mismatched information or a lack of understanding of how the tool is used, Cottin says. She and Kuball have rented to contractors with addresses outside their market, but getting company and location information can help them confirm a job site is legitimate. Consider recording the license plate number of a customer renting larger equipment. Knowledge Is Power Besides preventing loss via theft, training for rental also includes employees who are skilled and knowledgeable in the equipment they are renting. Along with quality customer service and being able to find the proper tool for a job, this training can help prevent injuries to customers. Training can begin by allowing employees to use rental equipment for their own projects outside of the store. When Kasson Hardware Hank brings in a new product for rent, Kuball encourages employees to try it out at home to familiarize themselves with its use. Cottin's Hardware & Rental employs a shadowing program for employees who have been on the job long enough to be trusted in the rental department. After learning how to fill out forms and process the rental, the junior employee can observe a more tenured employee instructing a customer on the equipment's use. Given the risks of injury, care should be taken on instructing customers for any piece of equipment, especially for specialized tools that DIYers are unlikely to have used before. "You get a lot of customers who blow that off. 'I've used this before, not a problem,'" Kuball says. "You respond with, 'Well, you haven't used ours. Let me walk you through it.'" If supported by strong products, consistent service and reliable training, renting can be a positive contribution to many hardware operations. "If you have patience and you listen to what people want out of your store, you can find tools and products that can be rented," Kuball says. "Let people know you have the equipment and make it available and reliable, and every household in your community has a reason to come in." Kasson Hardware Hank has developed a partnership with an area small-engine repair and sales business for the service needs of its rental products. " If you have patience and you listen to what people want out of your store, you can find tools and products that can be rented. " —Greg Kuball, Kasson Hardware Hank

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