Bloomfield Hardware Discovers a New Partner
You might call Derek Rollison an accidental retailer. Working in the land management business, he didn’t have any particular aspirations to a life in retail. But he saw a need and an opportunity, and more than anything, it was a challenge he felt he could handle.
Bloomfield Supply & Hardware was located in a shopping center in Bloomfield, Ind., that had been started by Rollison’s grandfather 35 years ago. His grandfather’s sister and brother-in-law had operated the store for 13 years, then his grandmother’s sister and husband took it over and ran the business for the next 22 years.
“It was distressed. I didn’t want to see it go away, so I took over,” explains Rollison. He took control on February 8 and one of the first things he did was go with House-Hasson as his main supplier in place of Ace Hardware. “I had probably seen the House-Hasson rep, Chris Kirwer, ten times more often than I saw my Ace rep,” Rollison says. “I saw the difference between the two companies right away. With Ace we were on our own, while with House-Hasson I felt like we had a partner.”
He needed a lot of assistance from his new partner to whip the business into shape.
David Helfenberger helped him come up with a plan to reset the store. “House-Hasson had as many as four or five people here helping out for about a month. We had to change a lot of stuff around,” Rollison says.
A big section of the store was not being used, so 2,000 square feet of space was added right away to make the total salesfloor 8,000 square feet. “Our plumbing area was too small, but that meant we had to move the electrical department and so on. Overall, the conversion process went fine and everyone at House-Hasson was very helpful,” says Rollison, who is joined in the business by his wife, Mandy, with occasional help from their 10-year-old daughter Taylor. The couple also have a six-month-old son.
The service counter was the same way it had been for the past 35 years, so Rollison completely redid that while also installing new flooring. The renovation cleared room for even more space in the front of the store, which was used to make a showcase area for commercial mowers.
“We had space for outdoor power equipment, so we thought we might as well use it,” he explains. He added Dixie and Skag mowers and Echo outdoor power equipment and began promoting the availability of parts and accessories as well as a repair service. Rollison ended up selling 29 commercial mowers this past year, which is not bad in a town of 2,500 people.
Although he was new to retail, Rollison understood that retail success comes from finding ways to build customer traffic. First, he had to overcome the past history of the store, which was viewed as a last-resort, convenience stop with an underwhelming selection of products. “We have to make sure we have what people need,” he stresses. “Plumbing and electrical have turned into big departments, because now we are a go-to place for big plumbing and electrical projects.”
The same goes for the paint category. “The paint side had been weak, and we wanted to be in the paint business,” Rollison explains. So he went at it in an aggressive way. He bought a local Pratt & Lambert paint store and hired the old owner to run his newly enhanced paint department. Right now the store’s sales split is 50-50 with pro and consumer business, but he plans to start targeting paint contractors now that he has more to offer them.
Although the heavy remerchandising work is behind them now, Rollison knows he still needs to pay close attention to his assortment while recognizing and capitalizing on opportunities. “We have to figure out what to expand in and what to get out of or shrink,” he says. “If we decide to pursue something like wood furnaces we need to know if our customers will buy it from us.”
Rollison is discovering the various ways that House-Hasson can help him grow sales and profits. He signed up for the Benchmark pricing program and has been impressed with how functional and easy it is to use the CD Toolbox.
“We have to walk a fine line with our pricing. People compare us to the big boxes 25 miles away, so we have to stay sharp with our prices,” says Rollison, who hopes to use his POS system as a tool to make smarter decisions. “Keeping track of sales history will be key information to have and follow up on so we’re stocking the right items,” he adds.
He has been to two Dealer Markets so far and has found them to be productive and beneficial to his business. “You can find a lot of good buys. The best benefit was talking to all the factory reps,” he says.
As he approaches his first anniversary as a hardware store owner, Rollison is relieved to know he’s got a reliable partner to help him grow his business. “Everyone at House-Hasson is great to work with. And they get back to you if you have a question, which was not the case at Ace,” he says.