Dennis and Sherry Bishop had maximized the sales they could get out of Petersburg Do it Best Hardware, a 6,000-square-foot store spread across two floors in tiny Petersburg, Ind. With their daughter Robin Smith and her husband Eric wanting to be part of the long-term plan for the business, Dennis and Sherry explored opportunities for a larger location.
While Robin and Eric were thrilled at the prospect of joining the family business to make an impact, they all recognized it would need to grow to support four family members. Over the next two years, the four collaborated and brainstormed, which led to securing a new location with an unusual twist—they would move into a much larger building recently closed by ShopKo.
With major help from Do it Best Corp., they completely remodeled the store. When they held their grand opening on April 2, 2016, more than 2,000 people lined up outside to check out the selection of products now available in their 28,000-square-foot home center.
FOCUSING ON THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE
With more than four times the space to work with, Petersburg Hardware could focus on becoming an exceptional shopping destination. Upon entering, customers find a well-stocked supply of shopping carts including kid-sized carts. This ensures that their customers’ children feel welcome, and it creates add-on sales opportunities with a custom mix of Melissa & Doug interactive toys now available.
“The hardware store 25 years ago was a man’s store. The ladies didn’t shop there as much. We added a line of women’s clothing and colorful pots and it started happening, but I didn’t have the family,” explains Sherry. “This new store gave me the family. We now have the kids with their little shopping carts and parents are comfortable bringing their kids here.”
Stepping further into the store, shoppers notice the deeper selection in plumbing, electrical, heating, paint and tools. Those beefed up core categories are now surrounded by new niches like heavy-duty riding mowers, outdoor power equipment, convenience lumber, animal feed and workwear. They sold 30 mowers the first year and increased the category by 138 percent the following year, sales that were not possible at the old store.
The LBM category was also completely new for them, and they now have dedicated 8,000 square feet to convenience lumber and building materials—perfect for DIYers and small home remodelers. Sales in the category have grown 10 percent since its introduction. They regularly introduce new niche products. They have found success in their home decor area with specialty signs, old-fashioned sodas, Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products, exclusive Channellock-branded products, major appliances and a complete bargain aisle.
“We’re the Walmart of our community. Our niche is having everything here,” says Eric. Paint has become a much bigger business in their new location, especially since they installed The Color Bar, a store-within-a-store concept recently introduced by Do it Best. Sherry and Robin regularly hold court in their paint department as they answer questions and offer decorating solutions.
“We added The Color Bar in April 2017, and we’ve already seen 10 percent growth in our paint department the first full year. That was a great addition to our store,” Robin says. Delivering personalized service is key with such a large store, and the Bishops and Smiths are a regular presence on the sales floor engaging with customers. “Each one of us goes above and beyond for whoever comes in the door,” says Eric.
To solidify a connection with a more engaged customer base, they aggressively registered nearly 800 new Best Rewards loyalty shoppers in their first 90 days. Petersburg Do it Best Hardware currently has more than 3,300 Best Rewards members, which is pretty impressive in a town of 2,400 people.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
With a new store filled with lots of new products, the Bishops and Smiths knew they had to up their marketing game if they were going to be successful. That meant reaching a wider audience and drawing from an expanded market area.
The solution came in their quick mastery of social media. “Social media is a big focus for us,” says Eric. “We have over 3,000 followers. Our commercials are very comical and quite the rave. We also take a lot of photos of anyone who purchases a mower and post it on our Facebook page.”
With creative input from everyone in the family, Petersburg Hardware has routinely gone viral with their over-the-top videos posted to Facebook. Edited by Eric and often starring Sherry, they regularly release video content promoting upcoming events and sales that receive as many as 50,000 views.
They also recognize the support they have received from their co-op to get the new store up and running and make it successful. “The Do it Best team has from day one been right there for us. Very rarely do we have to wait very long for information from them,” Dennis says.
In their first year in the new store, overall sales more than doubled, up 132 percent. The average ticket rose 30 percent and average transactions jumped 82 percent. Margin held strong on $1.9 million in sales. The following year, sales jumped to $2.5 million and for 2019 Petersburg Hardware is on track to reach $3 million.
“It is an honor to be recognized with this award. We are humbled and appreciate the acknowledgement for all of our hard work,” says Dennis.
“Dennis and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the incredible support of Robin and Eric, the commitment of our devoted staff and our loyal customers, with whom we share a special bond,” says Sherry. “We have believed in ourselves for so many years, and now we’ve got more people believing in us.”