Hardware Retailing

JAN 2019

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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January 2019 | HARDWARE RETAILING 67 Selling on Location Backstage Hardware has been a combination hardware and theater supply business since it opened in the late 1980s. But after the founders sold the business, it struggled with its second set of owners. In 2013, Robichau became the third owner to take control of the operation, and he was eager to breathe new life into the failing operation. Prior to owning the store, Robichau served as the chief financial officer of a landscaping supply company and had also acted as a consultant for a company that helps small businesses take steps to improve their operations. With these experiences and his personal work ethic, Robichau focused on how to become the best supplier for films and theater productions in and around Boston. His entertainment industry customers make up about 40 percent of total sales for the store. And while Robichau says he's found ways for the business to remain relevant and keep clients returning, other retailers interested in the theater supply business should take into account their audiences and locations. "For a retailer considering selling theatrical equipment, it might be difficult to get into, because you really need to carry a lot of stock up front," Robichau says. "However, it can lead to a profitable business, depending on where a store is located and if a relationship is established with a major university or a film studio." In addition to well-known film and television production cities like Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver, Boston is one of many cities that has made a name in show business thanks to financial incentives offered by the state. To learn about other states where unique incentives have led to film and production opportunities or to see if your operation might be able to be a supplier to the industry, go to the Last Word on Page 78. In addition to film and television productions, one of Backstage Hardware's top clients is the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) located at Harvard University, says Robichau. Harvard alone has seven stages on campus, and the store has even delivered materials to five of them in a single day. According to Robichau, retailers in areas where the community has a widespread interest in the performing arts should connect with their local universities and high schools to advertise the products and services they offer. If they carry or can order theatrical supplies, this outreach could lead to a profitable business relationship. "To expand our reach, I connected with high schools in the Boston area," he says. "Some of these schools had large theater programs and were buying products from big-box chains. I asked one of our theatrical suppliers to come to our store and host a workshop with high school drama teachers, which not only introduced the teachers to our high-quality product offerings, but also created awareness of our store and led to new business relationships." Products Ready for Their Close-Up At 5,000 square feet, Backstage Hardware is fairly large for an urban location. Customers can find anything they would expect from a regular hardware store, as well as steel and other goods that serve the shipyard across the street. "When customers walk by, they see a cool neighborhood hardware store," Robichau says. "However, inside the store, they'll quickly discover the many different theatrical items we sell. It might seem like an odd combination, but it's been the perfect fit for Backstage Hardware." To successfully attract and earn repeat sales from set designers and other artists, Robichau says a retailer needs to have the essential "expendables," which is a term used in the entertainment industry to describe the products required to create a set. A few of the main expendables Backstage Hardware stocks include scenic paints, specialized tapes and theatrical lighting equipment. "We sell the top two theatrical paint product lines that scenic painters use," Robichau says. "This paint is different than paint typically found at a hardware store." Backstage Hardware has carved out a picture-perfect niche by selling theatrical equipment since its founding in the 1980s, and it continues to thrive today.

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