Hardware Retailing

JAN 2018

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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HARDWARE RETAILING | January 2018 70 centralized purchasing center that streamlines the bidding and ordering process, with individual salespeople who can call on their trusted contacts depending on what is required in the order. "Having individual buyers gives us great access when going through the pricing process. A salesperson can reach out to a buyer with our centralized purchasing to make sure a customer is getting the correct price the first time. We serve as the resource to find the right product," Schawe says. "We engage our salespeople with a lot of vendor training to keep them current on product assortments and abilities. They have the right knowledge to help that DIY customer make the right choice for their project." Piece of Cake … Right? You won't find too many similarities between the day-to-day world of hardware retail and custom pastries, but fulfilling customer expectations and making timely deliveries of products spans across both industries. Ron Ben-Israel has designed cakes for celebrities and events across the world, while his expertise was on display as host of the reality cooking competition "Sweet Genius," which aired on Food Network from 2011 to 2013. He also appears as a judge on many other series and specials on that channel as well. To gather insight from beyond the hardware industry, Hardware Retailing spoke to Ben-Israel about accomplishing custom orders, handling customer expectations and making the most of the client experience. Take a look at our tips on how his approach can help better your business's operations. Hardware Retailing (HR): How do you begin a cake design? Ron Ben-Israel (RBI): We begin with referrals for our clients. We do social media work, but we don't advertise in the conventional fashion. For our industry, our referrals comes from clients seeing our work at fundraisers, openings, promotions, weddings or other events. One of our big causes is fighting hunger, so we do a lot of events for causes and organizations. We begin a vetting process to understand the dates involved as well as the expectations of the client, which determines its cost. Once we've determined that a customer's date and design expectations can be fulfilled, we invite them in for a tasting. I'm happy to recommend colleagues of mine if we cannot accommodate a client. That's part of good business, and we want even clients we don't work with to leave happy. Hardware Tip: While retail businesses must compete for every sale, forming strong customer connections can sometimes be more important in the long run. If a customer's project or order would fit better with another retailer, recommending that business can form positive associations for the customer. HR: What are some of the most common issues when creating custom cake designs? RBI: Expectations and knowing the smallest details of a client's mind when crafting a design. One example can be a client wanting a certain shade of frosting, like magenta. We can't go off of just a color's name; we need a Pantone number or paint swatch in order to make sure that color translates to the final design. One time I wrote in a cake contract to decorate the cake with linking diamonds and lace. So we designed the frosting to mimic diamonds and lace. The design is finished and it looks magnificent, and we speak to the client afterwards. They were happy, but they asked, "Where were the diamonds?" I guess they thought we'll use real diamonds in the design. I said, "This was an Ron Ben-Israel owns and operates Ron Ben-Israel Cakes, which delivers his designs to the greater New York City area and most of the East Coast. Learn more about his designs at weddingcakes.com. " As a company, you have to stand behind that product and stand behind your work with a customer. If you have a good rapport with the client and the vendor, you can turn mistakes into good conclusions. " —Brian Schawe, Star Lumber

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