This store is open; but aisles are closed
K&B True Value seeks balance between safety and sales.
Throughout his career as a retailer Jared Littmann has embraced leadership roles. Both as a former alderman in his hometown of Annapolis, Md., and as a board member of True Value Corp. since 2013.
Littmann, the owner of K&B True Value, now finds himself in a position to lead a team of hardware store employees while serving a community and fighting the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. His latest approach – keep the store open, but keep customers out of the store.
“This has been an incredibly stressful time,” he told HBSDealer via e-mail. “But I’m sure it is nothing compared to those in the medical profession who are treating those that are sick with the disease.”
In Maryland, companies that sell supplies and materials for maintenance of commercial and residential buildings, including ‘big box; home improvement supply stores, plumbing distributors, electrical distributors, and HVAC distributors are allowed to operate by order of the governor.
Bowing to safety, K&B True Value chose to limit the store to 20 “guests” at a time over the weekend. And on Tuesday (March 24), the store took social distancing to the next level – no customers in the store.
“We are taking phone, email, and website orders, and we are bringing products to customers in our parking lot or to their home if they are in five driving miles of the store,” he said. “I have a person at our store entrance beyond two large tables (to create 6′ separation) who is taking down customers’ names and phone numbers. Other staff in the store picked up those forms, collected the items for the customer, called for their credit card number, and ran the bags out to their car.”
Littmann posted a message explaining the store’s policy on Facebook.
The store continues to receive regular deliveries from True Value. (Littmann said he appreciates that the distributor has set quantity maximums on high-demand products so that all stores have equal access.) Customers also continue to be interested in paint and garden products for projects around the house during social distancing.
Meanwhile, the staff is very concerned about contracting the virus, he said, and many are choosing to stay home through the crisis. More would stay home if customers kept coming into the store, he added.
After above-average sales in previous weeks, sales dropped sharply in the absence of foot traffic in the store.
“While that is not ideal, it seems to strike a balance between protecting our employees, earning enough revenue to keep employees paid, and to provide the essential goods that our customer base needs and expects,” he said.
Littmann is the chairman of the Board of Directors of the True Value Cooperative Company, which has 30% ownership of the True Value Company created in April 2018, when the co-op converted to a private company.
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