Hardware Retailing

MAY 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 | May 2018 100 Hardware Retailing (HR): Can you give us a little background on your company and how you got involved in the business? Was this your first career choice? Amanda Fancy (AF): Gow's Home Hardware has been a family operation in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, since 1848, and the store has been in four locations. The last move was in 1989 when it moved from a 15,000-square-foot building to its current location, a 33,500-square-foot store. I began working as a cashier at Gow's as a teenager. I left for a short time to attend business college, and upon my return, I worked in the accounting department and later became the systems manager. I worked closely with my uncle, Peter Gow, for many years, learning the ropes of the business and going to markets and buying shows. I was trusted and knowledgeable and ideally suited to continue the Gow family legacy. In 2012, my uncle retired, and he sold the business to me, a loyal, then-32-year-old enthusiastic employee. HR: When did you decide this is what you wanted to do? AF: My interest was piqued in hardware when I started as a part-time cashier 23 years ago. My uncle encouraged me to continue my education in business to advance my role, if I chose to do so. As time moved forward, my role grew, and the opportunity presented itself to take over in 2012. I was eager to make my mark as an independent retailer and continue the Gow's legacy into its next chapter. Hardware has always been my passion. I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. There have been so many great women in the Gow family who have either worked directly in the business or behind the scenes, including Peter's aunt, Jean Fielding, and Peter's sister, Pat Gow. However, given the era when they worked at the store, they never seemed to be recognized for their contributions to the longevity of the family business. When I purchased the business, the change in leadership at Gow's marked keeping up with the times, as far as equality goes. In 1848, a woman would have never even been given the opportunity to work at the store, never mind own it! HR: What unique challenges do you think independent retailers face in today's market? AF: There are several important components to this question. For one, we have 60 people on staff who have over 600 years of combined retail experience in many fields, and maintaining that level of knowledge and customer service for our customers is difficult. Staff are the backbone of our business, but it's a struggle to fill the void left when someone retires. Also, retail has changed dramatically over the last few years. In the past, newspaper and radio, along with our strong promotional schedule and brand recognition, positioned us very well in the market. Today, Amazon and the big-box stores are constantly on our heels, and we are collectively trying to individually increase our market share. Our customers have many choices, and the key is to make us their No. 1 choice. It's all in how you brand yourself in the retail market. Our top priority is to target all customer groups and analyze where the gaps are to target a specific group. This strategy means making sure we have an accurate ideal customer profile so when we develop something, individuals and groups of customers know we are speaking directly to them. Our goal is to define and target our customers at the right time with the right messages. At Gow's, we are always thinking strategically in everything we do to breathe life into our marketing strategies. We use humorous, promotional and informative types of marketing techniques. We are looking closely at our company's overall needs and deciding how we can leverage our marketing strategies to continue to grow our customer base. HR: What strategies have you used recently? AF: We've changed our marketing strategy dramatically over the last seven years. Bridgewater is about 7,500 people, but our trading area is about 42,000 people. Gow's Home Hardware • Bridgewater, Nova Scotia Amanda Fancy

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