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A Conversation with NRHA Director of Retail Outreach

A recent addition to the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) is Tom Marcum, director of retail outreach. Since joining the team last year, Marcum shares his time at the office and out in the field, allowing him to meet and engage with independent retailers near and far.

Hardware Retailing sat down with Marcum to learn a little bit more about his position, his passion for the Retail Management Certification Program (RMCP) and his favorite part of the industry.

Below is his Q&A with Hardware Retailing.

Hardware Retailing (HR): Could you please tell us a little bit about your position as the Director of Retail Outreach with NRHA?

Tom Marcum (TM): At NRHA, we are continually looking for opportunities to engage with independent store owners as we fulfill our mission to help them become better, more profitable retailers.  Of course we want them to know about all of the programs and services we have to serve them, but we also want to make sure we are aware of industry trends so that we can develop new programs that will continue to serve their needs. I joined NRHA last year in this newly created position.

As the director of retail outreach, I engage with owners and key employees to ensure they know about NRHA services, with a particular focus on the programs in our Retail Leadership Institute.  These days, I am spending time promoting our Retail Management Certification Program (RMCP).

(HR): You travel a lot in your position. Can you tell us about this? What do you hope to accomplish when attending markets and visiting retailers in their stores?

(TM): When attending markets and trade events, I try to accomplish two things. First, I want to meet with as many retailers as I can, if only for a quick hello and handshake. This helps me get to know them and provides the chance to listen to their needs. Second, I promote our Retail Management Certification Program. I introduce prospective students and store owners with alumni students and store owners so that they can share their experiences and answer any questions. I also talk with co-op and wholesaler sales/store reps to let them know about RMCP so that it is on their radar for their stores who might benefit from the program.

When visiting stores, I am having deeper discussions with store owners and key employees. I get a better understanding of how they operate, what they do well and what challenges they face. We are then able to discuss available NRHA resources and how the association can help.

(HR): Can you explain what the Retail Management Certification Program is all about?

(TM): The program is an industry focused, six-month college level leadership and management program designed for key, high-potential employees. It has helped many independent store owners, and we want to make sure we spread the message.

The program is unique, so I like to spend 5-10 minutes with someone to cover the relevant parts of the program.  Once we have done that, they have a much better understanding of how it works and if it is something that might be a good fit for them or some of their fellow store owners.

(HR): Why do you think a retailer should consider enrolling themselves or an employee in NRHA’s Retail Management Certification Program? 

(TM): This program is thorough, high quality and specifically designed for students to learn, apply and retain.  If a store owner has one or more key employees who could be more valuable if they had additional leadership ability and knowledge of how to run or manage a retail hardware store, lumber yard or home center, RMCP should be considered.

A store owner might also benefit from attending RMCP, especially if he or she is relatively new to the industry or could benefit from learning in a focused, guided environment. This program is certainly worth exploring.

(HR): What are the benefits for students who go through RMCP?

(TM): Students who complete the program will have greatly improved leadership skills and a broader knowledge of all facets of running a retail operation. These will help position them to advance in their careers.  In addition, students will have a new peer group of sharp, dedicated individuals from all across our industry with whom they can share ideas and experiences to help one another.

(HR): How does a store owner benefit from sending a(n) employee(s) through RMCP?

(TM): A store owner will receive immediate and long lasting benefits from the program.

It is designed so that students immediately begin applying their knowledge to projects in the business that produce immediate, measurable impact and ROI.  These “quick wins” may be gained through projects in inventory management, pricing, social media advertising or a host of other areas.  It is also common for store owners to quickly notice students having more confidence and better knowledge of a variety of store operations.

In the long term, store owners will benefit from having better talent in their businesses.  This can help store owners execute plans for business improvement, business growth or transition to the next generation or store owner.

(HR): Can you tell us about some of your favorite retail success stories from the program? 

(TM): Wow, it is tough to narrow down to specific stories! We have several testimonials available and no shortage of alumni students and sponsors who are happy to share their experiences.

I will say that there is a tremendous positive energy in the students and store owners I have met who have completed the program.  They each can offer specific, measurable impact they had on their business and talk about how much the program did for them personally.

(HR): Since joining NRHA, what would you say is your favorite part about the industry?

(TM): Having owned and managed 22 rental units for several years, I have had frequent exposure to hardware stores, lumber yards and home centers.  I enjoy going into them and seeing the wide variety of store designs, product assortment and more. But I particularly enjoy meeting owners and hearing the history of their stores and, in many cases, how the stores have passed through family generations.  I like being in a position to offer them programs that help their businesses in some way.

(HR): You’re constantly looking to connect with retailers in the industry. What is the best way for them to connect with you? 

(TM): Call or text me at 317-440-9782 or email me at tmarcum@nrha.org. Do it now!

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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