Big boxing match retailersFor independent cabinet dealers competing in the retail and remodeling segments, big-box retailers often prove to be challenging competition.  In an effort to set themselves apart, many dealers market the experience level of their staff, their singular focus on kitchens and baths, and their level of customer service.  While these may be strong points of difference, they can be very hard to quantify and they don’t always resonate with the consumer.  Price-conscious consumers living in an age of convenience don’t know that your design team is more experienced but they do know the home center down the street is open until 9:00 PM.

So what can you do to steal sales away from the big-boxes?

Expanded Showroom Hours

Nobody wants to work on nights or Saturdays, but expanding your hours might make a lot of sense for your location.  You can start small by opening Saturday’s from say 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM to see how much additional traffic you generate.  Keep the staff to a minimum – maybe just a single designer or salesperson – and make sure they have things to work on if they are not busy with customers.  You’ll also want to role play with your team so they can handle “bum-rush” situations if they arise.

If you see Saturday mornings paying off, turn up the heat some more and keep your showroom open until 8:00 PM Tuesday through Thursday.  A simply way to manage this is to have a designer take a specific night of the week – every Tuesday, for example.  Or, you might begin offering evening appointments.  Make sure you give your extended hours a fair trial before trying to judge the success.   Of course, you will need some way to get the word out to prospective customers….

Inexpensive Targeted Marketing

Most independent dealers have NO chance of competing with home center advertising budgets.  So how can you get the word out on new products, special promotions, or new showroom hours?  Here are a few proven ways you might want to try:

  • Flyers – Create colorful flyers with some type of offer (“Free” kitchen design) and have your staff spend 4 hours on a Saturday placing them on cars at the local home centers.  These can also be targeted to neighborhoods in your area.  For the record, this is NOT fun but it DOES work!
  • Advertise in Neighborhood Newsletters – Target neighborhoods with 10 to 20 year-old homes and place ads in their community newsletters.  This is much easier than distributing flyers and, for about $100 per neighborhood, it might be a good investment.
  • Implement a Referral Program – Word of mouth advertising is the best money CAN buy, particularly if you offer something to the referrer.  You might be surprised at how many leads you can get just by offering a good meal at a local restaurant for each referral.

Financing Alternatives

One of the biggest drawing cards for big-box retailers is their ability to offer convenient financing through their branded credit cards – often at promotional interest rates.  In the past, independent dealers had very few ways to combat this obstacle short of carrying the financing for the customer.  The cost, risks, and administration of consumer financing made that an unwelcome and seldom-used approach.

Today, dealers can offer their customers a number of financing alternatives comparable to national home centers.  In fact,GE Money partnered with the NKBA in early 2009 on a program that can put dealers on equal footing.  If you haven’t already looked into the GE Home Design program  or something similar, now may be the time.

If you want to compete with the big boxes, begin by making sure your operation truly is better.  Then, get aggressive and go after creative ways to level the playing field so you can win more sales.