Jan 26, 2008

My buddy Noah can't smile and keep his eyes open at the same time it seems. Is that one good-looking kid or what?

I'm no fan of WalMart, but neither am I someone who is crazy in hate with them. They have certainly changed retailing forever, but whether it is for the worse depends upon who you are. One way to look at WalMart is as the Costco for the lower middle class and working poor. It has its place for those that need it.

One of the many raps against WalMart is that they have crushed most of the small retailers that used to flourish. No doubt about that, but WalMart isn't the only category killer, they are just the most offensive to the most people.

Home Depot and Lowes are equally guilty of driving many small retailers out of business by offering lower prices than the small guy can offer. Lowes and Home Depot just boast a better image in the community than WalMart.

The reason I bring this up is that since I started working at Ace, the obvious has become obvious to me. The way to compete with the giants is to have a niche. At Ace, the niche is service. At the big stores it is impossible to find a salesperson. At Ace it is impossible to avoid one. It turns out people will pay for that, at least enough people to make a small chain very successful. I had an experience today that is illustrative.

A man came into the store today, that like many customers, had an idea, but didn't know how to bring it to fruition. He wanted to make a cane holder for his mother's wheelchair. I spent about 20 or 25 minutes with this customer, trying various plastic pipe sizes and connectors until we came up with just what he had in mind.

Included in the bill of materials for this creation was two 6-inch sections of PVC pipe. At the big stores you buy pipe in ten-foot sections, even if you need 6 inches. At our store, if you need 6 inches, we will gladly sell you a foot and even cut the 6 inches off for you. His total bill for the project was less than ten bucks.

The best part for me is that my boss is perfectly happy to have me spend twenty minutes with a ten dollar sale because we are selling service along with our products. Customers like this will come back a hundred times. Ace becomes the first place he looks.

Anyway, I'm liking working at the hardware store.

Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong, sometimes just full of it, but always judgmental and cranky


Kurt said...

My local hardware store helped me with a project that involved cutting a sheet of metal to wrap around the hole in my car's exhaust. I've done it twice in my life. It works like a charm, as long as it's a straight section of pipe. Wrap the sheet around the pipe, secure with two hose clamps, and drive away.

They sold me the materials and rented me the tin snips for five minutes. Can they do all that at Home Depot?

d. chedwick bryant said...

i don't care for home depot or lowes. the people who work there never make eye contact and you have to check yourself out!

and they don't have free coffee an cake like my Trading Post Ace store.

Steve said...

My Mom was telling me the other day about a report she saw on the news...that younger consumers don't even EXPECT customer service. Apparently it's so alien to them that they don't even know it exists. They think it's perfectly natural to enter a vast warehouse store and flail around by yourself until you find some semblance of what you were looking for.

How sad is THAT?

I will never forget a man who sold me my wristwatch at Bloomingdales about 12 years ago. He was an older guy who obviously had worked there a long time. He spent time with me, showing me different models, and I can honestly say it was one of my best retail experiences ever. He's long gone, but I am still faithful to Bloomingdales.

Julia said...

Many retailers make you feel like they're doing you a favor by allowing you to shop there. It really is surprising to find great service.

bella rum said...

Remember when they used to pump your gas, clean your windshield and check your oil?

Flawed & Disorderly said...

That sentence about Noah smiling and his eyes closing made me laugh out loud.