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Selling Outdoor Power Equipment in a Small Store

Retailers who sell the full range of outdoor power equipment typically have space for a showroom, a repair shop and warehouse for storing large equipment. Not every retailer has that luxury, however. So is it possible to still be successful with limited floor space? Hardware Retailing spoke with two retailers who are successful in selling the department, and, even though they each have large showrooms, they said yes, a retailer can still be successful even if they have a limited amount of space. Following is their advice.

First, you don’t have to sell everything from tractors to handheld equipment. Study your market and focus on a few particular items. And take into consideration the seasonal nature of this category. For example, you may not have to stock weed trimmers all year, but could use the same space to stock leaf blowers in the fall. “Being successful isn’t as much about space as it is focus,” says Ian McNaughton, owner of Gravenhurst Home Hardware in Gravenhurst, Ontario.

In addition to focusing your product assortment on a few items, focus on one key vendor. That vendor should offer a high-quality product that will set you apart from your discount competitors. “Specialize in a single brand,” says Dan Stroinski, owner of D & J Farm and Home Hardware Hank in Thorp, Wisconsin. “Don’t try to have several different brands. Concentrate on one where you can make an impact.”

Vendor support will be critical, too, because if you’re not able accommodate a deep stock, you want a vendor with fast delivery to replenish inventory as necessary. Always have at least enough to have a unit on hand for customers to see and test.

“Always service what you sell,” Stroniski says, as this is another one of the essential components of running a successful outdoor power equipment category. If you don’t have space to repair equipment, he suggests a partnership with a local small engine repair shop by serving as a drop off and pick up point for repairs. This gives customers two more reasons to come to your store while still supporting another local business.

If you do have a repair shop but don’t have space for a lot of extra parts, establish connections with other dealers. There will be times when it is easier to get the needed part by driving to a nearby dealership than waiting for a shipment from the vendor. “I think one of the biggest keys to selling this category in a smaller space,” he says, “is to have connections with other dealers and working with them to supply your store with the parts and products you need.”

To read more about how to make outdoor power equipment a successful department, read “Operating in High Gear,” in the May issue of Hardware Retailing.

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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