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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is a Thursday Eye-Opener on MNB Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

An MNB user sent me an interesting story the other day, a “Business Owners Blog” that ran on Bnet and detailed what happened when two guys decided to open a hardware store in Penfield, New York - just two miles from a Home Depot. I found this particularly interesting because I can remember when I moved to Connecticut, there were maybe a half-dozen hardware stores within a few mile radius; Home Depot opened, and now there’s maybe one independent left.

According to the Bnet blog, however, these two guys have managed to be a rousing success - apparently because of five central observations that they made about their customers:

Most people in a hardware store are doing small projects, not building houses. So Beyond Hardware doesn’t sell building materials, but does carry “a wider variety of fasteners and cabinet hardware than Home Depot, since do-it-yourselfers are more likely to regularly need — and return for — nails, screws and knobs than, say, sheds.”

Location matters. Beyond Hardware is in a shopping center with the area’s biggest supermarket and other destination stops. This makes it utterly convenient for the customers it is looking to target.

Half of its hardware shoppers are women. Which means that Beyond Hardware is designed to appeal to them - it smaller, brighter, quieter, user-friendly and as unlike a warehouse as they could make it. Women have responded.

Customers will respond to points of difference. According to the Business Owners Blog, “Beyond Hardware doesn’t sell tractors, but it does have things that Big Orange and Big Blue don’t, like comprehensive departments of top-of-the-line work clothing and pet supplies. (They) keep a keen eye on what really sells and turns. They know the local market, they can react instantly, and they zig when the big stores zag.”

Price matters, though not for everything. Beyond Hardware is part of the True Value co-op, which gives them access to greater buying power. But the store does not focus on price competition — “they know that customers will allow them to make a fair profit in exchange for convenience and personal service.”

Good lessons, I think, and applicable to any retailer. The one I like the best: Zig when the other guys zag.

Words to do business by.

For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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