Hand and power tools have the potential for powerhouse sales no matter the size of your business or your community. Being knowledgeable, hosting events and advertising aggressively are just some of the strategies that can turn this basic core category into a destination.
Mark Wojdula and his wife, Lisa, purchased Reese Hardware & Paint, located in Reese, Michigan, from the Kuhne family in 2003 and renamed it Dunn Hardware & Supply. The store went from a 16-foot Milwaukee power tools section in 2015 to a 3,200-square-foot selling space for Milwaukee tools and accessories in 2022. Hardware Retailing spoke with Wojdula about the success of his operation’s hand and power tools category and how he made the section a department.
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Eager to Expand
The growth of Dunn Hardware & Supply’s hand and power tools section can be traced back to one customer requesting a dozen Milwaukee grinders, Wojdula says.
“At that time, our power tool selection was weak and scattered and had different brands without a focus,” Wojdula says. “When we received the request, we went all in and were impressed with the service Milwaukee provided to us and our customer and how well they stood behind their products for warranty issues.”
Wojdula says they put in a 16-foot Milwaukee power tools section in 2015, and it took off, doubling in six months and then doubling again six months later. In 2018, the operation opened up a wall in the adjacent suite, adding 700 square feet of selling space and leading to the creation of “Destination Milwaukee.”
“I chose the name Destination Milwaukee because being a hardware store in a small town, you’re basically a convenience store, which is how we built our customer base,” Wojdula says.
“But when we became specialized in hand and power tools, I wanted to move our operation past the convenience factor and be known as a destination, and I think the name reflects that idea.”
With the addition, the operation became the largest Milwaukee dealer in the state.
“Even if we didn’t increase sales by $1 in Milwaukee, the expansion was necessary because the demand was growing so much,” Wojdula says. “Once we added the additional space, sales exploded.”
In 2022, Dunn Hardware & Supply opened up another wall to gain access to another suite, resulting in 3,200 square feet of selling space for Milwaukee tools and accessories.
“With Milwaukee, we were able to compete and price competitively,” Wojdula says. “We also invested during a time when Milwaukee was making innovations with cordless products, and it has been tremendously successful for us.”
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Secrets to Success
The success of Dunn Hardware & Supply’s hand and power tools category sales is multifaceted. A large part of the operation’s prosperity can be traced to the Milwaukee-exclusive events the store holds a few times a year, Wojdula says.
“We have customers come from all over the state and beyond,” Wojdula says. “These events are simply amazing for a small retailer like us.”
During these events, the store opens at 7 a.m., but often, customers have been in line since 6 a.m. or earlier so they can have the first crack at exclusive deals and excellent promotions, Wojdula says.
Part of the event’s success can be attributed to the operation’s aggressive marketing and advertising strategy.
“We run TV and radio ads, post to Facebook, do text blasts and email flyers to our customers to spread the word,” Wojdula says. “We do this event in the spring around Father’s Day and then in the fall.”
“We strive to be honest, price competitively, provide the best selection of products possible, ensure our sales team is knowledgeable about the products, provide excellent service and always offer the best deal possible,” Wojdula says.
“Meeting these goals has led to the success of this category.”
Being knowledgeable about hand and power tool products does not come easily, and there is a steep learning curve.
“We utilize training videos from Milwaukee for our product knowledge,” Wojdula says. “It takes time and commitment, but in the end, it is worth it to be knowledgeable about the product and provide accurate information to the customer so they are happy with the sale.”
While training can fill most knowledge gaps, there are times when employees may be missing information.
“If our team doesn’t know something our motto is ‘Be honest,’” Wojdula says. “This rolls into pricing too; we tell customers if we can’t give them a better price. We also tell them when we can, and we don’t wait for them to ask. We tell them if something will be on sale next week or if there will be a deal in the future.”
The operation also does not shy away from trying to match prices either. While the conversation may not result in Dunn Hardware & Supply being able to match the price, the customer has all of the information they need to make an informed decision, Wojdula says.
“Even when our price is a couple of bucks more, we often still get that sale because we are knowledgeable, honest and will take care of tools that are under warranty,” Wojdula says. “When customers have an issue with their tool, they can bring it in, fill out a form in 30 seconds and then we do the paperwork, package it, send it in and text the customer when it is ready to be picked up.”