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 76 A Flood of Customers How a business reacts in a time of crisis is where it earns trust from its customers or loses their confidence for years to come. Turning around after a disaster and keeping business moving is a point of pride for many retailers. But it's also just part of doing business in the LBM industry. Scott Jones, southern market manager for Hayward Lumber, oversees several locations of the company and knows the fine line businesses must walk after a disaster. Pricing for in-demand items will be under intense scrutiny, and any indication of profiteering from customers will draw withering criticism. "Some items you have to just maintain their price, even if supply is down and prices on your end are rising. Sometimes we donate items for organizations designed to help in relief efforts. There was also a 'bucket brigade' of volunteers that was helping homeowners recover after landslides. We sold those buckets at cost," Jones says. Assisting customers can go beyond supplying materials, Jones says. Finding nontraditional ways to assist community members can also earn customers' loyalty, but more importantly, can help a community in ways few others can. "During the most recent fires, we were contacted by the Santa Barbara Zoo for a possible evacuation of their animals," Jones says. "We have trucks and manpower that not too many others have in the immediate area, and that's just one way we could help community members. Luckily the zoo wasn't forced to evacuate, but there are other areas where we can be of unique help." Strong with Shell Lumber says it isn't surprising to see customers lining up hours before the business opens in the days leading up to an expected hurricane. Procrastination and the general panic induced by an impending storm can trigger many customers seeking the same products, which is why Shell Lumber has built a plan around how to best serve the most customers. "We have employees who will go through the line at the register, which can be an eight-hour wait at times, and let them know how much of each item they can purchase," Strong says. "This customer Smoke from the Thomas Fire in 2017 can be seen from the Santa Barbara, California, location of Hayward Lumber. Forest fires and landslides are some of the natural disasters that plague California communities and retailers.

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