Iíve heard it more than once. In fact Iíve heard it way too many times, ďI donít understand it, Iím the only hobby store for miles around, yet business is continues to be slow.Ē
Itís a shame, but many dealers, especially old-school dealers, donít get it. I donít care how close the next store is. You could be the only store for a five-state radius, but the truth is, in todayís age of online sales, you are not the only store around. The old phrase of, ďThe only game in townĒ no longer applies. All dealers, it doesnít matter who you are, or what yesterdayís reputation meant to people, to stay in business today, you have to be better and try harder.
Iíve said this numerous times, but there is nothing I canít buy online, at 5:00 in the morning, wearing nothing but my skivvies and sipping on a cup of coffee, that I canít buy in your stores. Actually there are many things I can buy online from the convenience of my sofa that I canít get at your stores. Another misconception is that a consumer will only buy that single rare item a dealer doesnít have in inventory online and that he will still make the bulk of his purchases by ordering from the local hobby store.
Using myself as an example, Iím never in a hurry anymore, I will always shop locally first, but if forced to place an online order itís rare that Iíll just buy that one oddball gizmo. Iíll do an entire inventory of what is needed for a project and place a bulk order. Everything comes to my doorstep at one time, there is nothing in the way of piecemeal purchasing and collecting of components until everything needed is finally amassed. Itís extremely unfortunate, but about the only thing I feel obligated to purchase at the store level is fuel (due to shipping regulations) and then itís a case at a time so weíre talking maybe once every couple of months at the most.
Do I prefer to shop at a local store? Absolutely, as said it is always my first choice. In every single case before an order is placed online Iíll check at the local dealer, but--this is where notes need to be taken--to draw me in you store needs to be clean and orderly with a friendly atmosphere. It doesnít sound like much, and Iím not saying a store needs to be decorated like the Enchanted Kingdom, but peeling walls and a musty smell donít do anything for anyone.
Without exception neat and orderly should be obvious, but Iím amazed at the number of stores that are so poorly organized ancillary items have been placed just about anywhere there was space for a hook. As an example DuBro should all be together and itís the same with Excel, it sounds ridiculous, but Iíve walked into stores where hardware is spread out over three walls and at times I canít find the #11 blades to go with a #1 handle.
This last thing can be a tough pill to swallow, but if business continues to be a bit slow take a look in the mirror, and I mean take a long look. I donít shop anywhere; I donít even go anywhere that I am not made to feel welcome, and by no means am I alone. If you honestly think you can act like Oscar the Grouch because thereís nowhere else for a customer to make a purchase take your last $10 and buy a padlock for the door. Itís over.
Iíve had the opportunity to shop in stores where Saturday mornings are like a gathering of friends, all with a common interest. Cups of coffee are consumed and stories are shared. Iíve also been in stores where the owners openly admit they donít want people hanging around--make your purchase and get out--certainly not much in the way of an inviting atmosphere.
Think about it. Iím just one of many potential customers. I may walk in once out of curiosity, but Iím not obligated. If you want me back again you will have to entice me.
Until next month,