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Service For the Box Store
Doing business with a mass merchant
Competition was intense enough years ago, when the larger servicing dealers were able to dominate the market. These dealers could dominate due to their ability to get better pricing, and to advertise. This was an early example of volume purchasing. When the big box stores, such as Home Depot and Lowes came into the market, it wasn't too long before all servicing dealers joined the local hardware stores and lumber yards in feeling the impact of the presence of the new competition.
In regards to new equipment sales, there are probably very few that sell more equipment than their local big box store.
Even if you are located 30 to 50 miles away from one of these businesses, you have undoubtedly experienced one of your regular customers purchasing a piece of equipment from these stores.
When the market place contained only servicing dealers, both large and small, there were several advantages the smaller dealer had over the larger dealer in regards to attracting customers both commercial and residential. This list would include the convenience of being near by, the customer always knowing who was working on their equipment, and other traditional advantages like delivery, in house charge accounts and extended hours.
With the addition of the big box stores, the number of locations customers can shop in has increased. The only plus to the new competition is that through all the advertising, there is an increase in the number of residential customers that are now buying equipment and working in their yards. Either way you look at it, competition is more intense and both large and small servicing dealers must be on the lookout for new ways to increase profits.
The situation of these big box stores selling many of the name brand power equipment items you are selling may never turn around, but you can surely take advantage of the situation. Hopefully, most retailers will service what is sold by the big box, but what about the opportunity of seeking out this business as compared to simply stating that you will service what walks into your shop.
Visiting the manager of the big box, and offering to do his warranty work, to pick up and deliver, can get rid of a tremendous headache for him. You might even agree to purchase from them the new equipment that has been returned by his customers as defective. Many times instead of dealing with the equipment, the big box will simply hand the customer a new piece of equipment. The returned merchandise begins to pile up in the warehouse of the big store, awaiting the manufacturer's representative to determine the appropriate method of dealing with this merchandise.
With some product lines, the manufacturer is looking for someone that is willing to offer this extended service. Notice that in all of this discussion, price was never the issue. The manufacturer and big box store are looking to get rid of a headache.
Several years ago, we had a manufacturer approach our business about providing this service for them. They were even willing to create an attractive display which would hold our business card. Our job was to contact each of these merchants and offer the service.
During our initial visits to these big box stores, we found several of their store or department managers that were reluctant to accept our proposal. We quickly found several ideas that allowed us in later visits to place this display, advertising our shop, within their store.
The first change was in the method we presented ourselves. Instead of introducing ourselves and naming our shop, we gave our name and announced our arrival "on behalf of XYZ manufacturer". Suddenly we were no longer a small repair shop, but were in effect a manufacturer's representative who was entitled to a couple of minutes of their time.
The second change was to create a new business card. Instead of a card prominently displaying our shop name, and the equipment we sold, we created a card which only mentioned service and included a photo of our service technician.
We were able to go into every warehouse, big box, discount, and chain store, and place an attractive display naming our business as the shop for service. More people would see that display in a day than would come into our shop in a week. The cost to us was $40 for new business cards, and some time away from the shop.
Of course, when we had one of the customers come in from a big box store, we provided lots of individual attention - something no mass merchant can give. And when that piece of equipment left our shop, it had a sticker on it telling the customer where to come to next time.
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.
Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.