“Revenge of Independent Hardware Stores.” Independent hardware retailers are giving the big chains a run for their money. These stores excel at giving friendly, knowledgeable, customer service. Prices, aren’t necessarily cheaper.
We all know the requiem for retail stores in the twenty-first century. Big-box megastores killed off the mom-and-pops. Amazon and e-commerce crushed brick-and-mortar. By the time the great recession hit, traditional retail was already toast–and the drop in consumer spending that came with the crisis burned it to a crisp.
Independent home-improvement retailers stand apart. …Make up 50% of the market. They are not just surviving. They are thriving by offering products for local needs. …Personal customer service.
Savvy customers are seeking local products or services, and are willing to pay for that knowledge and experience. The hypothetical, was of a customer in a big-box store, seeking plumbing advice from an unexperienced employee borrowed from lawn-and-garden.
As an employee of one such independent hardware retail store–it was a pleasure and challenge to give good, personal customer service. “Can you make me one of these?” Was frequently heard from customers–as they brought in homemade widgets to solve household problems.
My personal favorite customers, were those that dabbled in artsy-craftsy. “I’d like to build a Christmas tree from plumbing fittings–something different.” That turned out to be one of the easier challenges.
Self-employed inventors threw off bizarre vibes of paranoia. They wanted help, without giving away what they were working on.
There were more humorous incidents than I can recall. Some were doozies. On my first day, a call from a customer with a chirping bird, hidden somewhere in her home. Everyone thought her to be crazy. It turned out to be a dying smoke detector battery. The detector, forgotten about, stored away on a laundry room shelf.
And, downright silly things; a young cashier paged overhead for assistance. “Could someone help the nice man on aisle seven find his nuts?” “Did we have moronic acid?” Which was really muriatic acid. “Did we carry balusters?” Further questioning revealed this meant ballasts for fluorescent lighting.
It was give-and-take between customers and employees. We learned from each other. What could be more meaningful than helping people?