Greg Sammet, a certified water specialist at Martin Water Conditioning with 15-plus locations in Pennsylvania and New York, knows a bit about how a retailer can earn his business. He’s been working with independent retailers like PaulB Hardware for years outfitting crews of contractors heading out to job sites. In that time, he’s had plenty of chances to be impressed by products and services or turned off by a sales staff or lack of availability. Sammet spoke with Hardware Retailing about what he looks for in an independent retailer. For more on targeting the professional customer, see how some retailers have successfully catered to the market here.
Hardware Retailing (HR): What do you look to source from independent retailers?
Greg Sammet (GS): We outfit our trucks with a variety of power tools and fasteners from independent retailers. We source from a variety of businesses, and just like any other service provider or contractor, we shop around for the best prices. When we’re dealing with the kinds of items we are using a lot like drills, pipe cutters for different materials and fasteners, we actually look more closely at service. Service doesn’t just have to be meeting us in the store and helping with a purchase. One of the best ways a retailer has earned our business was learning how many fasteners like we use in bulk, like anchors and 1/4-inch screws. We buy those by the hundreds, and a retailer made it clear he was willing to order on our schedule so we always had a source. We’re looking for retailers that not only have the brands that our service professionals and installers prefer, but retailers who have knowledgeable employees that move our teams forward with new trends and technologies.
HR: What examples of strong customer service can you offer for retailers to follow?
GS: We’ve built strong relationships with a lot of our retailers. They recognize our guys when they’re in the store and they’re ready to both get us in and out if we’re in a hurry or to show us some new products they’ve stocked that we might be interested in. Our service providers have preferences in brands, different tools for different jobs, and having a sales rep show you something new from a different brand without pushing it can be a great way to grow beyond your habits.
HR: Have you had less positive examples of a retailer that didn’t live up to your expectations?
GS: There was a company that we had done a lot of business with for hardware items and tools that was sold to new ownership and afterward, the company was less interested in working with smaller orders. Things now had to be in bulk, much larger orders so we could no longer work on a truck-by-truck basis as we can with a local independent retailer. That loss of convenience, which we saw as turning away from the small professional contractors, meant we used them less and less. They no longer carried the brands we required. As long as suppliers are accommodating, helpful and can get us a fair price, we stick with them. You want to stick with the businesses that feel invested in you.