You may think that nothing can replace the Mom & Pop corner hardware stores, but that’s not true. They can be replaced. In fact, they already have.
I wrote last week about the inevitable disappearance of Mom & Pop businesses, and some of the reasons for it. But like all things cyclical, those bygone businesses have a present-day counterpart. You’re probably wondering what they are, but you already know; you just may not realize it.
Big Box stores are the new Mom & Pop. How? Well, these days they’re close to everyone. Perhaps not “on the corner,” but considering that corners don’t much exist anymore they’ve taken residence in what passes for the corner store today, the local strip mall. They have what you need; they’re a short drive away; and like the Mom & Pop hardware stores of yore, they’re one-stop destinations: Need nails, a garden hose, a hammer and a trashcan? You’re in luck. Just like the corner hardware store, it’s all there.
The most important ingredient is also there these days, and that’s personal service. They don’t remember your name, of course – that’s not possible considering the store traffic – but when you walk in the door you’re greeted like a family member. I almost expect them to offer me a beer and some snacks. You can’t stroll down any aisle without someone in an orange or blue apron saying hi and asking if you need anything. If you do, you’re not just told where it is; more often than not, they take you by the hand and drag you right where it is while asking you how you’re enjoying the weather. Is the item you’re looking for big? They carry it to the checkout for you, and then to your car.
There’s a reason for this, and that reason is the biggest proof that they’re the new Mom & Pops: They’re terrified you’ll go shopping online and put their local store out of business. It’s already happening. Lowe’s closed 20 stores in 15 states last winter because they weren’t seeing enough business. Home Depot has done similar in the last few years.
Is it any wonder that when you walk into Big Box store these days that you’re treated like a long-lost friend? To their way of thinking, you soon may be.