Maximizing TIGHT Retail Space
Owner Walid “Wally” Abulawi is excited about the potential for the store, which merchandises hand and power tools behind the checkout counter.»
Walid “Wally” Abulawi
Do it Best Hardware of Clinton Hill | Brooklyn, N.Y.
In Brooklyn, retail space is at a premium and rents are exorbitant. Merchants must get creative finding a balance between effective displays and packing in so much it looks cluttered. Do it Best Hardware of Clinton Hill has dialed in that formula by cleverly using a variety of merchandising techniques to get 6,000 square feet of merchandise into a 4,000-square-foot store. Owner Walid “Wally” Abulawi worked with his co-op to develop a store plan that took an example of how the city itself expands—grow up.Do it Best Hardware of Clinton Hill opened in May 2019.»
Store opened: May 2019. Previously I had been in the supermarket business.
Wholesaler: Do it Best Corp.
Sales floor: 4,000 square feet
Weber grills are stacked high near the front entrance.»
Top-selling categories? All categories are selling well so far. Garden products and live plants are really doing well as is Benjamin Moore paint.
Key niche categories? Housewares and household items, especially what people need in a small apartment.Stack displays and nine-foot gondolas help the store maximize space.»
What were your goals when setting up the assortment plan for the store? We only had 4,000 square feet to work with, but I wanted to bring in as much product as possible. So the solution was to go as high as possible. We went with 9-foot gondolas—two extra feet more than most stores. With rent so high in NYC—two to three times what it is in the suburbs—we knew we needed to utilize all the space we could for retail.
How much have you continued to change since opening? Every week we get two orders from Do it Best and we keep searching for new items to add. When a customer requests something we add it, so we keep increasing our inventory even more each week. We just started building new shelves on top of the checkout counter to maximize the space there. We will display more power tools there.Customers comment on how neat and organized the store is compared to others in the city.»
What role did Do it Best Corp. play in getting the store started? Do it Best has definitely been involved in every aspect of getting this store up and running. It was my duty to finalize a location, so I had Do it Best do a study of two possible locations. We found out this location on Fulton Street in the Clinton Hill neighborhood is a much better location for a hardware store. Do it Best’s team drew up the assortment and merchandising plans with planograms. We’ve been trying to keep the same original look while continuing to add new stuff.
How has the store weathered the pandemic? When the pandemic hit it was kind of scary. We didn’t get much business the first few weeks, but we stayed open. Then people realized we were open while other hardware stores were closed, and that we were in stock with protective gear, kitchen items and other things they desperately needed. We were there for our customers. People learned they could find it here, and our store traffic started picking up every week.Do it Best Hardware of Clinton Hill has been doing brisk business throughout the pandemic.»
Some customers would call in and request something and we’d bring it outside or to the curb for them—whatever was convenient for the customer. Some retailers took advantage of the pandemic and raised prices, especially on items like masks and hand sanitizers. I did the opposite. Everyone is suffering, with lots of people off work, so they didn’t need to be paying more for in-demand items. We offered the best prices in the area on masks and hand sanitizer, and my customers realized this is a store that is not taking advantage of them. This situation is only going to be for a short period of time and I don’t want to look bad in front of the customer. We’re still making money, so it’s good for business in the long run.
What sort of feedback have you received from customers? For people in the city to see a new store that’s neat and organized, they’re just not used to that. People say it’s not like a city store. Some of my customers come from other states and they are used to shopping hardware stores that are neat and well-organized. They say they enjoy walking around the store and seeing what we have to offer and that everything is easy to find.Space above the Benjamin Moore paint chip display is used to stock plants and watering cans, while below is used to merchandise firewood and cases of bottled water.»
What have you learned about hardware retailing so far? We have an unlimited opportunity to grow and keep growing and that’s what I love about the hardware business. If you’re willing to make an investment and take a chance it will pay off for you. If someone walks five or 10 blocks to come to your store, they expect you to have what they need. I keep bringing in items that other hardware stores don’t carry. It’s about customer service and the relationships you build with people. If they enjoy their visit to your store, they will be back. It’s incredible to see how you can build off that.
What initiatives are planned for 2021? New initiatives for 2021 are to build more shelves and bring in more power tools. For the next four or five years there will be some high-rise buildings going up nearby. The construction workers come in asking for power tools and accessories, since we are their first choice. About 25 percent of sales are currently coming from pros and contractors.
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