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The Call to Sell the Store

Deciding to change careers

Seventeen years ago our family sold the second of two stores that we had owned in Sarasota. Yet, 24 months later we found that the call was still there and we returned to retail in a location 60 miles further north.

After surviving the arrival of the big boxes, we found the retail scene to be greatly changed. To thrive or even survive, would require adaptation. As there were several family members in the store, the area of concern that was directed to me was floor management. What began as monthly staff meetings to correct problems, grew into a program of management style, and an area of new opportunity for me to explore.

By 1988, the training program that our store created, had began to develop a reputation in the industry. And, within two years, there was 'Retail Management Guidelines', a manual published by the education department of the NRHA. The manual was created from our experiences and included job descriptions, job specifications, policies and procedures, and 13 weeks of our training program which we had titled, "Skyway University".

There also came a number of opportunities to speak before retailers at industry conventions, association meetings, and wholesaler and co-op markets.

In 1988, a writer from this magazine, then known as Hardware Age, called and offered the opportunity to write this column. This issue is the 62nd article in this monthly column. Each one of them has been a pleasure to write.

The chance to explore and develop new ideas continued to grow. Many readers of this column have been gracious enough to make a point at industry events to stop and introduce themselves.

The great honor has been in the many times that you have written, called, e-mailed, or stopped at an event to express words of agreement, support or disagreement.

In 1992, when the other members of our family retired from the store, time did not allow this to continue. There was a seven year schedule established to achieve the financial and personal goals we had for ourselves and this store. Only the magazine column and our position on the Eastern Retail Hardware Association board were to continue.

Now after 15 years, it is time to change. As you read this column, the store has been sold to new owners. I am thrilled to see another couple, begin to own and operate Skyway Hardware. I am sure that they will make many changes and improvements. Obviously, if they did not think they could make the store better and larger, they would not have purchased the business.

Do I enjoy retail any less? No. From the days of working in Grandpa Brown's General Store in Fort Smith, Arkansas to today, I have continued to enjoy talking to customers, solving their problems, as well as representing a store that made a point to be an active part of the community.

However, as with many things in life, if I did not explore this opportunity and my second love of work, I would surely wonder later in life what would have happened.

There also exists the personal desire to be out in our industry and have the opportunity to work with retailers and assist them in growing their businesses. I will be giving assistance in a way that only another retailer can do. There are several projects that I will be working on. And, as I gain new insight, this column will be here to share those experiences.

The downside to this transition is in leaving the frontline retail side of the business. When I next attend a market, there will have been a totally new series of preparations for attending. Gone will be the purchase orders, and manufacturer's information sheets for me to work from.

While there has been a certain air of excitement about moving into a new arena, there were also many times during the first 60 days of this year that I was talking to a team member, or sitting in my office chair, and realizing that this part of my life was going to be gone. I can honestly tell you that it felt like attending a funeral or seeing your best friend move across the country. And you knew that life as you had grown accustomed to was now going to be different.

The last night in the store was played out in my head every day for several months. Most all of the personal belongings had already been boxed and delivered to my home office. The office walls were bare and the desk was clean. There were several of the cartoons from the wall of fame, and the Rusty Wallace fender that had been removed.

Being a very sentimental person, I had a long while to sit, walk and talk with the store's pet cat. At the end of the evening, she was the only one with dry eyes. It had been a great 15 years and I was very proud of the things our store had done for the community. Turning the key in the lock for the last time will forever be in my memory. It reminded me of walking out of my grandfather's house many years ago. It was on that occasion that I knew I would never see him alive again.

As this column continues, and for that opportunity I thank the publisher and editors of this magazine, we will also have stories and lessons from my perspective as a retailer and from the perspective as an industry consultant.

With the additional time available, I look forward to again participating in seminars and developing material to assist the readers in the operation of their business, whether it is a one person neighborhood hardware store or a much larger operation.

Here is my voice mail number and my e-mail address. I'll be here to answer the call.

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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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