Hardware Ireland was started by Alan and is now seen as the online presence of Expert Hardware, Crumlin. They have been serving their local area for the past 15 years from their store, but have recently taken to the internet to expand their eCommerce service!
Some thoughts from the interview
“We’ve had a hardware store in Crumlin village, Expert Hardware Crumlin for the last 20 years. 6 years ago we decided that we needed to look into different avenues, generate some different income streams. Online was one that we looked closely at and to be honest initially when we looked at it we wondered how suitable it would be for a local hardware store, how much business we would actually generate from an online store. We kind of had the view that maybe as a catalogue it might be very helpful for us for bigger items instead of saying to people we can order this which would be a classic line in a hardware store as it is very difficult to carry everything. We would be able to point and say here is what we can order here, here’s what it is, there’s the dimension, that’s the price and it will be into to you in 2 to 3 days or whatever. So as a catalogue to help our customers in store.”
“The way it has transpired is it is nearly a standalone business itself the website and with that it brings a lot of problems and a lot of extra business.”
“Overall it is extremely beneficial but it does require a lot of attention.”
“It is an updated version. We are lucky enough that within the same premises we have Kieron who designs websites. He has nothing to do with our store as such, he just works in the same premises. It’s Kieron who looked after our website and Kieron has a great idea for detail. Best Web Design is Keiron’s business. This is the second website Kieron has built for us and it is something we are constantly updating. Like I say there is a lot of work goes into it. It’s not that you build your website leave it in a corner and off it goes generating all these sales for you.”
“A lot of energy and time and effort goes into ensuring that your product profile is right, that your images are right, that your site is easy to shop and that products are easy to find. Unlike having a bricks and mortar store an online store requires a lot of attention.”
“We have a back office system for our Expert Hardware store but not as a standalone for the website. It doesn’t integrate with the website. We have to manually put on items. If we get a sale on the website, we then have to work that into our back office systems it wouldn’t automatically happen.”
“We do a good bit via eBay and Amazon. We generate quite a lot of business from that route. I suppose the frustrating thing of the harsh reality of it is the cost of selling, particularly Amazon, is very, very difficult so you have to have your margins right. Generating the sale is one thing, making sure you have your margins right so you’re not being a busy fool is very tricky because you have got to get it out there at a competitive price. Amazon and eBay shoppers are very savvy, know exactly what’s out there, they are looking for the best bargain out there. If the prices aren’t right you won’t sell, but you have got to have your margin right as well or your just not making enough money. At the end of the day if you’re not making profit your business won’t be viable for very long.”
“very competitive in getting the cost price, but your delivery costs have to be really keen. We are lucky enough with the volume we are doing, we use the an post courier service and they are giving us a very excellent service at a very good rate. It is a nearly a chicken and egg thing, you only achieve the decent rate when you get the business so you have to have the volume of business to say to them we have x amount going out per week what can you do. I would advise anyone no matter who they are using as their courier to be constantly on the phone every couple of months revising that price, seeing if they can get an extra couple of euro over because it makes all the difference having that keen delivery price.”
“It’s great to do a bit of business abroad… but always with a view that it is profitable, that we have got our delivery costs covered.”
“At the end of the day it is about profitability and how you are making your margins on the product.”
“I do find that a lot of work goes in to eBay and Amazon customers and there can be sometimes unrealistic expectations about delivery as well even though it is clearly marked on the site or questions about the product even though it is clearly marked in the description.”
“There can be an awful lot of tire kickers on the other selling outlets.”
“There are 6 things that deal with all aspects. There is an awful lot that goes into it. When it comes to the likes of returns it would be myself that looks after it.”
“One of the major benefits of the website that we have set up is that it is very hands on. If I want to list a product it is very simple. 6 or 7 very simple steps for me to upload a product and indeed and edit a product.”
“It is essential that anybody who is thinking of getting a website, that they have within a couple of clicks of a mouse they can change a product, change an image, change the delivery, update a product, update a price.”
“You have got to be able to have a real hands-on system that you can react quickly to any changes.”
“Something we learned early doors if your product description, your product codes, your product images they have got to be nailed on. We give a no quibble back guarantee back with our products and I think that is important. We will always issue the refund there is no issue about that. There have been occasions that it has been 100% our own fault, image wasn’t quite sharp enough, the product code wasn’t 100% bang on. We would have been a little bit loose on that early doors.”
“Accuracy on the site is vital.”
“It’s not something we spend an awful lot of time on marketing the site itself.”
“Adwords isn’t something that we have spent a lot of money on… It’s more about keeping the site right, the description right and having the right keywords right on our site when people are searching for those key items.”
“It would depend on the business what way you would market the business.”
“As a local store (Facebook) is quite helpful, as a vehicle to sell product via our website it is not massively helpful without putting money into it. Facebook are great with in terms of giving you small budgets to work with and identifying your customers… but your budget disappears very quickly without translating into sales. My experience of it, with no great expertise, in trying to sell on Facebook have I found it quite difficult to get any return on any form of investment.”
“Never say no to a customer. You might kind of go I’m not too sure I would be able to do that but take their name, take their number and say I haven’t got them in stock at the moment but leave that with me and I will see how quickly I can get that for you, how efficiently how I can get that for you and I will give you a call back. You can be so surprised what you can get in sales from doing that.”
“Our suppliers are very helpful in getting that order out because it is a big order for them to.”
“There are a lot of items on our site that are not physically held in our stock because our suppliers are excellent at getting them out for us.”
Best advice: “Assume there is nothing you can’t offer your customer but the most important thing would be to never over promise and under deliver. If you are making a commitment to a customer you have to follow that trough, every time, you can never under deliver.”
What do they offer?
Hardware Ireland offer an enormous range of products from well known brands such as Dewalt, Polycell, Hitachi, Black & Decker, Stanley, Durabond, Everbuild, to more niche products which may prove difficult for people to source such as hoover bags, habadashery and travel accesories.
How to contact Hardware Ireland!
Check out my list of resources, free tools and great advice: Resources Here
I offer strategic consultations for your own eCommerce business: Consultation Here