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 102 Our customers also span several generations. We serve grandparents and parents who are listening to the radio and looking at the local paper, but their kids and grandkids are on social media. We used to primarily use newspaper and radio, but we've cut back, especially on radio and even with the local paper. We are using a lot of social media. Right now, Facebook is No. 1, with about 5,000 likes on our page. We're also constantly trying to grow our following on Instagram and Twitter. One program we have maintained on radio is a local fishing show, called The First Cast. It's something people in the community know about us. We are known as a fishing destination. We work with a local producer on a biweekly basis to produce videos for Facebook and YouTube. Videos promote a different department throughout the store. We're always on social media, including YouTube, and videos have been a strong focus for us over the last year to capture a larger audience. We invested a lot initially to try to build engagement, and we've seen strong results. HR: What are some key opportunities independent retailers have in the short term? AF: As an independent retailer in a rural setting, our skill set isn't the same as that of a big box or our online competitors. For us, our image is everything, and branding and promoting ourselves as the local choice for our customers is one of our main focuses. We have worked very hard to promote buying local and ensuring we have the products our customers want so they don't look elsewhere. Part of our strategy is to have on-hand products that you can't find anywhere else. Whether that is the latest fad, advertised Home Hardware-exclusive products or local vendors selling their products in our store, we do our best to draw our customers into our store by offering one-stop service. We want customers to be able to get specialized service in every department. HR: How do you connect with local vendors? AF: Sometimes vendors approach us and sometimes products come in through customer recommendations. We have a lot of small businesses in our area, and we do our best to promote as many as we can. Once a year in November, we have a customer appreciation night that is tax free. We host local vendors at the store during that event. Even if we don't carry their product in the store, we are able to highlight them and give them exposure. HR: What advice would you give to someone considering getting started in the independent industry? AF: The independent hardware industry is not for the faint at heart. My best advice is to never lose focus of your goals. I won't lie, there are many challenging days, which is why it's so important to not allow yourself to deviate from the end result you are striving for. You can't lose focus! For me, that means on the bad days, taking a deep breath and looking at the big picture. I remember that tomorrow is a new day, and it's important to start each day with a fresh outlook. I try to encourage my staff in the same way. All staff members are encouraged to give their thoughts and ideas. We're a team, and everyone contributes in a different way. We make up this family called Gow's. We maintain a staff Facebook page, a closed group that everyone belongs to. It's a good way to not only get information out to everyone, but we also encourage staff there. We also host staff barbecues monthly to continue to keep staff engaged. We offer paid birthdays off and full benefits, and we match pension for our full-time staff. Being a seven-day retail operation, those are some things you don't get in other places. The staff at Gow's Home Hardware is a close-knit team. They enjoy engaging with customers and spending time together at store events.

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