Paul Salley knows exactly why he decided to buy a hardware store. “I guess I temporarily lost my mind,” he says with a chuckle.
In February 2017, Salley and his wife Tina purchased Busbee’s Hardware in Pageland, S.C., from second-generation owner Jud Busbee. The business had been started by Busbee’s father in 1947, and Busbee was ready for retirement.
Salley had been farming for many years and his oldest son wanted to take over the farm. “I wanted to buy a business that my youngest son, Chris, could take over,” he explains, pointing out that he worked at Busbee’s as a teenager.
They renamed the store Palmetto Hardware & Outdoors and decided to keep the wholesale supplier Busbee’s Hardware had been using: House-Hasson Hardware.
With House-Hasson’s assistance they underwent a total store reset last May, changing the layout and merchandise mix, designing new signage and identifying opportunities for growth. The six-week process resulted in a much expanded inventory and some new niche categories for the 10,000-square-foot sales floor.
“We expanded the plumbing, lawn and garden, and paint departments. We completely redid the paint department, going with Valspar and putting in a paint-mixing machine,” says Paul. “We also added more hardware such as hinges and fasteners, and also bought bins and hardware inventory of another store that closed.”
“We get comments that ‘we’re glad you’re carrying this now.’ In some cases, they just didn’t see those products before the reset,” says Chris.
When Paul decided to buy the business he got a lot of feedback from loggers and farmers about what to put in inventory. The store now caters to loggers, farmers and chicken houses. “We added Grade 8 and metric bolts at their suggestion, so now we are the place to go for that. We also put in electric motors, cables, cable clamps and chicken houses,” he says.
Adds Chris, “We moved some shelves around and added repair stuff, and we got into grills, cookers and sport chairs.”
Being new at hardware retailing, they find every day to be a learning experience. “We have had to rely on House-Hasson’s expertise, because we didn’t know anything about running a hardware store,” says Chris, whose mother Tina comes in and helps on Saturdays.
“I’ve lived here most of my life, but I’m still learning what people want and need,” says Paul. “So far we’re hearing nothing but positive feedback from customers. We get comments that the store is so well-organized and has better inventory.”
Getting their indoctrination as retailers has been made easier by the assistance they have received from House-Hasson. “Our sales rep, Terry Taylor, is super nice and good to work with,” says Paul. “He’s been a hardware retailer before, so he can speak from his past experience, plus he has knowledge of House-Hasson’s system.”
Adds Chris, “Terry comes in weekly and is very helpful. He acts like a true consultant for us and takes care of credits and any problems that crop up.”
“It’s been great to work with House-Hasson so far. We have no complaints. They find answers to our questions and help us figure out which direction to head on products,” Paul says.
Traffic started picking up during the reset. Plumbing and lumber have emerged as top-selling categories, along with fishing equipment, according to Chris. To create more traffic and better serve the surrounding area, they sell hunting and fishing licenses and added U-Haul rental.
Taylor encouraged them to go after impulse sales by rotating end caps and paying close attention to merchandising, and that strategy has been paying off.
They installed a new electronic sign that attracts attention on the heavily traveled road. “We have a Facebook page and participate in House-Hasson’s circular program to increase awareness,” says Chris.
They held a grand reopening on October 17, with help from Taylor and Regional Manager Bill Barnette. “They’re doing everything they can to help us succeed,” Paul says.
The nearest big-box stores are 30 minutes away, so they try to find the middle ground on prices to stay competitive. “House-Hasson helped with prices and margins, which we can customize on Etoolbox,” says Chris.
He really likes the functionality of Etoolbox to keep up with inventory and for figuring out what you can make margins on. “Etoolbox is pretty convenient. We can use it to look up a price or find an item for a customer,” he says.
Paul and Chris have both enjoyed attending the dealer market. “You see new items and get a chance to talk with vendors. We did a lot of buying,” says Chris. Adds Paul, “Going to a dealer market was an experience. There’s a lot of merchandise to look at and you pick up good ideas. You can learn a lot there. You have to keep your wife with you to keep you from buying too much.”
With the hard part of opening a new store behind them, the Salleys are confident they are positioned to grow the business. “We had already doubled sales half-way through the year last year,” Chris points out. “Things are headed in the right direction.”