Independent retailers wear many hats to maintain day-to-day operations and deal with factors dependent on the economy’s health. The local hardware store or home center is a unique business niche that caters to a specific segment of customers. Many of these family-owned businesses have been in the same location for generations. They continue to exist when others have failed because they understand what customers want and expect of them.
- Sell quality products and services at a fair price that solves a problem or improves my home
- Hire great employees who share information and knowledge to help me complete projects with confidence
- Make shopping enjoyable and convenient—get me out the door quickly
In today’s volatile business climate, retailers should continually look for growth opportunities by investing in the business and employees. Customer behavior is constantly changing. It is essential to periodically “refresh” your business and update employee training to be relevant in today’s shifting retail environment. Being customer-focused must be a priority. Positioning your store as the local “go-to” place for DIY homeowners and pro contractors often requires additional resources to sustain the relationship.
Provide Quality Products and Services
While price is important, selling products for a few dollars more is not a deal breaker. Consumers rally around family-owned businesses because they want them to succeed. Hardware stores are part of the American narrative of being proudly independent. Independent retailers have the flexibility to create profitable niche businesses by offering unique products or selling merchandise exclusively through the independent retail channel. Identify items that make sense to sell in your community that competing retailers do not provide. Alternatively, offer a wide assortment of products that appeal to your customer base. Businesses in resort communities may sell fishing gear and items that appeal to tourists. Stores in neighborhoods with older homes may specialize in restoration hardware or high-end fixtures. The point is to sell products not typically sold at big box stores and relatable to shoppers in the community.
Hire Great Employees
Employees are integral to the success of any business. The store is destined to fail without the right people in place up front and behind the scenes. Staff must be well-trained and understand their role within the business. Since customers visit hardware stores to buy products and receive advice they can trust, store associates should also have people skills. Both you and your customers have high expectations. Employees should have the temperament and knowledge to meet specific requirements.
- Hire people with the right attitude and train them to acquire skills
- Use multiple training methods to help employees retain information
- Role-play with employees to practice how to generate add-on sales
- Offer short training segments that can accommodate the employee’s schedule
- Use free or inexpensive resources offered by co-ops and manufacturers
The one-on-one engagement a customer has with the retail staff continues to be the most significant driver of customer satisfaction with home improvement retailers,” said Christina Cooley, director of the @Home practice at J.D. Power. “Now more than ever, customers are looking for the guidance they need—but they’re also looking to get in and out of the store quickly. Customers receiving speedy, knowledgeable, and friendly service are likelier to return and recommend the retailer. However, satisfaction scores tumble if they wait five or more minutes to receive help.
Make Shopping Enjoyable and Convenient
Your “store” is where consumers can access your business’s products and services. The transaction can happen in a brick-and-mortar store or online. However, it should always be a positive experience that prompts shoppers to return. Set a high bar for customer service. When you treat people well by delighting them with over-the-top service, they are happy to share their experiences in person or online with others. According to the American Express Customer Service Barometer, Americans tell an average of 11 people when they have a good experience. Shoppers are also willing to spend more. This case is especially true of millennials, who willingly spend twenty-one percent more for excellent service.
Remember to visually merchandise your physical and online store to reflect the season. It will keep customers engaged while they shop and give them ideas they can use at home. The rule to keep it simple still applies since it’s best not to overwhelm shoppers with too many options. Your e-commerce store should also use colors and graphics to promote seasonal merchandise. Enhancing the shopping experience relates to how you want consumers to view your brand.