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You don’t win the hardware retailer of the year award in Worcester, Mass., for 15 straight years by being passive in the marketplace.
To meet the challenges of a tough economy, Barrows Hardware ramped up its merchandising efforts with aggressive endcap promotions that in turn have generated increased sales.
Brian Barrows, president, said that as part of its “Door Busters” promotion, Barrows places up to 30 endcaps in the store featuring name-brand products and selling the items at cost.
“We rotate the endcaps constantly,” he said. “The items are timely, they are the right items and at the right time — seasonal, smart assortments. We focus on brands that people know and want (including DeWalt, Stanley, Benjamin Moore, Scotts and Bosch). We’ll fill the entire endcap with one item.”
Barrows Hardware also uses its Facebook page to promote its brand partners and other in-store events. On occasion, representatives from the leading brands visit the store to answer questions or educate customers on the latest products. Barrows also brings in leading experts in horticulture, painting and other disciplines as an added-value benefit.
Barrows said the aggressive promotions have met with success in myriad ways — from increased strong traffic to better visibility for his store and customer retention. “It’s not rocket science; it’s essentially textbook retailing,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve changed the assortment to meet the needs of our changing demographics.”
Today, Barrows offers what he calls “niche services,” such as propane, while continuing to emphasize the name-brand products that draw customers in.
Once they come into his store and speak with his sales professionals, he is confident of landing that customer.
“In a down economy, we’re playing up our strengths. We epitomize customer service, it is not just a catch phrase,” Barrows said. “We have a great group of guys here, a seasoned sales staff. For independents like us, it’s about service.”
Ten years ago, Barrows Hardware signed a deal with Orgill, the wholesaler, in a deal that Barrows said has changed the course of his operation for the better. As he explained it, “I liked the way they went to market, the way they put their programs together. They offer the programs and services the independent needs to compete in today’s world. It’s allowing you to choose your direction or path. The package they give you is real nice; they give you the assortment that a good hardware store needs.”
THE PERSONAL TOUCH
Barrows, who was president of Barrows Hardware prior to its relationship with Orgill, said his company can maintain its independence, while benefiting from Orgill’s market muscle. “Working with Orgill is the way it ought to be,” he said. “Everything runs so smoothly, and their customer service is so great. I wouldn’t want to do anything differently.”
Specifically, Barrows likes the approach and accessibility of Orgill’s staff. “Everyone from the top guy in the company to the guy who drives the truck is there for you — and they are all helpful,” he said. “When you have something you need, they have it. From their circular program to their electronic file maintenance and electronic price change, they really have it all. It would be difficult to run our business without them.”