Inside a Houston ‘command center’
On Sunday night, before the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey, the following post appeared on the Facebook page of Cypress Ace Hardware: “We will be open tomorrow. We have batteries, generators, tarps, plugs and pumps. Whether you need supplies or just a dry place to take a minute, we are here. We are not leaving.”
All around Texas, hardware and building supply dealers are performing the difficult task of remaining open for business – and open for relief — in a major catastrophe. Cypress Ace Hardware is one of those with a front row seat on the disaster, and the unfolding recovery. The Houston store has been a command center for all of Ace in the northern part of the city since before the storm.
Just two-and-half miles from Cypress Ace in northwest Houston, the water reached to the red part of stop signs. But the store has been open through it all. And while other retailers who are friends of the Murffs have three feet of water in their stores, Cypress Ace was spared. The store played the role of command center for other Ace stores by serving as a will-call holding zone after receiving five truck loads of storm-related products. Ace retailers who could reach the store could pick up product on site, as opposed to waiting for a separate delivery.
“We’re tired, but we’re OK,” said Susan Murff, who owns the store with her husband Bill Murff. “It’s such a nice thing to be here when customers are so happy to see us they hug us when they walk in.” Top sellers have been batteries, flashlights, gas cans and generators (at left).
Bill Murff and the couple’s son, Jason – a 26-year-old Army veteran – slept on cots in the store since Hurricane Harvey touched down. Part of the reason: to prevent looters.
Susan Murff spoke with HBSDealer on a sunny Thursday when water levels were dropping in some parts of the city, and still rising in others. She said more than 30,000 people remain in shelters. She expects a new phase of the post storm to kick in soon – the clean up.
We have supply trucks coming in and people here are beginning to leave the shelters,” she said. “That will mark the next big rush of people buying bleach and other cleaning products.”
Take a page from the Prime Day playbook
Right now, a marauder is pillaging your business. This plundering has been going on for some time now but the raider is becoming bolder and bolder in attracting your shoppers’ mind and wallet share.
You may not have recognized this loss before now but this bandit is one of your competitors. This competitor probably doesn’t even have a store near you but their strategy is affecting the nation’s shopping experience.
There is, however, an opportunity for you to take a page from your competitor’s playbook, re-engage your shoppers, and recoup mind and wallet share.
I get it. You’re an independent retailer; you’re not the retail behemoth that Amazon has become. You don’t have a website that commands enormous online traffic; you don’t offer a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo that your shoppers can talk to and order from; nor do you offer anything like an Amazon Dash button that would allow your shoppers to buy items with the push of button.
Your business does offer what Amazon cannot. You can offer a person, a face, a human being for your shoppers. The human connection, believe it or not, means you can offer a better customer experience than any online merchant.
At the same time, there is something you can learn from Amazon’s strategy, a way you can take a page from their playbook, and use to your own advantage—celebrate your very own Prime Day.
If, for some reason, you aren’t familiar with Prime Day, let me explain. This is the third year in a row that Amazon has held Amazon Prime Day. This year, Prime Day was July 11th. This year Prime “Day” was a 30-hour-long flash sales event. There were exclusive deals on thousands of products for members of the Amazon Prime subscription/loyalty program.
What did Amazon accomplish with their most recent Prime Day? We learned that sales during the 2017 event grew more than 60 percent compared to the Prime Day last year. That’s phenomenal. Sales from Prime Day were more than Amazon’s Black Friday or Cyber Monday. More members joined Amazon’s Prime program than on any single day in history and 50 percent more Prime members made a purchase on Prime Day than the last year.
Basically, Amazon has self-created a holiday shopping day. Who would have dreamed that a merchant, much less an online business, could command shoppers like that?
What can your independent retail business learn from Amazon Prime Day?
- Loyalty is more than just a discounted price. Prime Day demonstrates that a loyalty program is also about exclusivity and unique access. Prime Day isn’t just special prices on a website.
- When you are a member of ‘The Club’ and can enjoy the exclusivity that it brings, then you tend to behave in ways that keep you in ‘The Club.’
- It is an event. Prime Day doesn’t go on for days and days. It’s a limited, timed sale. If you want to participate you must join in and you must buy during the sale. Also, Amazon marketed the event for months—although none of the deals were advertised until just as it was about to begin.
- Price discounts are good, but not great. Several websites reported that not every item sold on Prime Day was the best price to be found for those products. Yet, the shoppers came and purchased, and purchased, and purchased.
- It takes execution. There were millions of shoppers pounding Amazon website and while there may have been the minor glitch here or there, the fact is, Amazon executed remarkably well. Additionally, many of the items purchased—because these are Amazon Prime members—were hitting the front doors of the consumers the day after the sale. Execute and satisfy (well, gratify) the shopper as quickly as possible. And, I while haven’t seen any numbers for it, there is no doubt that Amazon also sold items that weren’t being discounted or on sale.
How can independent retailers respond?
- Host your own Prime Day event.
- Make your event a big, big deal. Have food, sodas, and giveaways. Celebrate your customer. Your goal is to make your customers feel appreciated.
- Use the event to remind your customers why they should be loyal to you.
- Market the event, but not the special deals. Give your event a name.
- Work with your vendors before your event to get special pricing and discounts; often vendors will make a rep available to your store to demonstrate a product or help sell their product line.
- If you don’t have a loyalty program then you need to implement one. Don’t just make your reward program about points. Align your loyalty program with your marketing strategy.
- Provide rewards that are not just price or points focused. Exclusive deals, exclusive events, red carpet treatment, timed discounts, and random rewards are all just a few ways you can leverage your loyalty program.
- Be ready to sign up new members to your loyalty program at your event. You want non-member loyalty shoppers to show up eager to sign up and take advantage of your program. Be sure to train your staff on how to execute.
- Be sure you have the analytical tools that can help you identify your best customers, your top loyalty members, and then work relentlessly to reward those customers.
- I’m not necessarily advocating a special online sale, although certainly that’s one way to hold your own Prime Day. Bottom line, offer a special in-store day (and if you have an eCommerce site then be sure it aligns with your in-store program) in which you have special products, special prices, and your staff is ready to implement it.
- Offer this special event (day) only to your loyalty members. Make it clear that you must be a member of your program to attend, to buy at the special price, and to be part of “The Club.”
- If you have an eCommerce site, but are concerned about shipping costs, then consider having a “Buy Online, Pickup In Store” (BOPIS) only sale.
- Hold the same event next year on approximately the same day. You could even hold your event on Amazon’s Prime Day just to demonstrate how you are not Amazon, but you do have special pricing for your customers.
- Offer some of your special priced deals as limited and/or timed opportunities. Not all of the Amazon deals are of limited quantities but many are.
Earlier, I mentioned that your business offers what Amazon cannot—you can outservice Amazon. You can engage at a personal level with your shoppers in ways that Amazon can only dream. Because your business can outservice your competition, take every opportunity to call attention to how your business stands out from Amazon.
Leverage what makes your business special and take a page from a competitor that is increasingly taking wallet share from you. Have your own ‘Prime’ day, whatever you may call it, to celebrate your shoppers and celebrate your business. Make it exclusive, make it about helping your best customers get even more value from you, and please let me know how well it works.
About the Author
Doug Smith is a director of product marketing at Epicor Software. He joined Epicor in 1999 and is currently responsible for product marketing of the retail and distribution solutions product lines.
Stihl Hardware All Stars: S.D., Va., Wash.
HBSDealer editors like to say: It takes a little more to be a Stihl Hardware All Star. The 2017 list of 50 hardware stores from 50 states supports that maxim with a tremendous variety of stores.
Since 2011, HBSDealer has reached out to suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, vendors, retailers and homeowners in search of high-performing, service-oriented, community-minded hardware stores, lumberyards or farm and ranch dealers worthy of All Star status.
It’s a tribute to this industry that each year brings a surplus of high-quality nominations. The companies profiled have earned their place on the list of 50 — and they join an elite fraternity of honorees. Here’s to the class of 2017. And here are our representatives from South Dakota, Virginia and Washington.
Dell Rapids Ace
This Ace store grew out of its old location and now has close to 15,000 sq. ft. of retail space with expanded departments throughout. “We’re able to offer more of what the town needs,” store manager Alan Nedved said. The store features large aisles and expansive open space to help individuals in mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs. Besides hardware and household items, Dell Rapids offers numerous sporting goods items including live bait, and recently expanded its rental department.
Capps Home Building Center
When asked to identify Capps’ key to success, Ryan Cappellari, contractor sales manager, used the word “diversity.” He explained, “by offering many different products and services, we show value to the customer and protect against any economic downturns. Our goal is to be a one-stop shop for all your home needs.” To further its growth, this Monetta retailer recently expanded its store by over 8,000 sq. ft. to include a design showroom and an expanded lawn and garden center, which features a year-round greenhouse.
Johnson’s Home & Garden
All Stars know how to expand. Case in point: Johnson’s Home & Garden in Maple Valley. Since the store first opened in 1969, it’s made several renovations and expansions. The biggest came in 2013 with a new 35,000-sq.-ft. location, including a massive 6,500-sq.-ft. greenhouse. Johnson’s business doubles as a community gathering spot. It held an orchestra in their garden center during the town’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony, regularly hosts wildly successful ladies’ nights and always has free popcorn and pint-sized shopping carts for the kids.