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Offering Extended Hours

Opportunities for More Sales

If you have been in this business for twenty years, you can remember when a shop would open at 8 am, close at 5 pm, and the couple of real progressive dealers would be open for 4 hours on a Saturday morning. The product lines that you selected were most likely exclusive with you within your trade area. And while there were a number of large servicing dealers that could dominate a market, everyone was able to earn a living.

Today, protected territories are gone, and everyone is selling many of the products that you do. You only have to visit the box or discount store to know that the same type of merchandise is now being sold in these non-servicing retailers. But worse yet, this equipment is being sold during the same hours that you are at home. These retailers are open as early as 7am, closing as late as 10pm, and in a growing number of metropolitan areas, these stores are now open 24 hours a day.

Don't worry, as I am not about to suggest that a servicing dealer should never close. But, if you have the traditional Monday thru Friday hours of 8am to 5pm, then the majority of your potential customers are either unemployed, retired, or one of those people that works the nontraditional hours.

Look at the advertising within the market place and you will see little advertising that is directed to the retired or unemployed. This is because they do not spend the amount of dollars that the 8 to 5 workers do. And, if you do not have a lot of factories or hospitals in your trade area utilizing the nontraditional shifts, you may need to reconsider your marketing and your hours.

While this strategy calls for additional hours and services, you can make these changes gradually and in a manner that will quickly determine the profitability.

One of the first additions you can try is to offer a "drop off your equipment on the way to work" service. Starting at 7am or 7:30, you could have one person at your back door that would receive power equipment and write the service tickets. The shop does not have to be open, and you don't have to have your technician on hand.

An inexpensive way to promote this would be to create a couple of window posters, a one page flyer that you can use as a bag stuffer, and a rubber stamp message that you can imprint on each completed service ticket.

For most businesses, the dinner hour is one of the slowest times of the day. But after that time, people are often out shopping. Still not convinced? Take a couple of evenings and travel to the box or discount store. Wander through their lawn and garden department to see how many people are shopping.

These shoppers are potentially your customers. To bring them to your store, of course you will have to be open during these hours. But, they will need additional reasons to come to your shop.

Opening during the evening with a skeleton staff will do for many dealers. If your staff has the basic knowledge to be able to provide the initial service and to answer some repair questions, or give estimates, you have already surpassed the big competition. The task is marketing.

Again the ideas shared earlier can help, but you will probably need some other advantages. Do you have the equipment assembled so that you can fuel it and allow the customer to take it home immediately? Can your customer test operate the equipment before buying? Are there questions you can answer that the sales help at the competition cannot? And most importantly, do your customers know this?

Yes, the rules of retailing outdoor power equipment have changed. And they will continue to change. Those that will continue to be in the game will be those that have the best offense.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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