Building a Diversified Business

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Building a Diversified Business

Atkinson’s Discount in Pageland, S.C., has been around since 1982, and brothers Rick and Randy Atkinson have a pretty good handle on what their local customers want and need.

The business started off in automotive parts and mobile home parts, then they put in general hardware in the 1990s.

Atkinson’s Discount features a 3,840-square-foot sales floor plus 3,600 square feet for auto parts and mobile home parts. About 2,400 square feet of space out back contains four sections for HVAC systems, lumber and mobile home packages. Half of their sales come from hardware.

The hardware side of the business has seen tremendous growth recently, which was spurred by the decision to switch suppliers to House-Hasson Hardware nearly seven years ago.

“We’ve grown every year with them,” points out Randy.

“We’re very pleased with the service we get from House-Hasson,” says Rick. “They offer twice as many SKUs as our previous wholesaler, so we’ve been able to consolidate the number of suppliers we’re buying from. As a result, we’re buying quadruple what we were buying before from our previous supplier.”

House-Hasson did a store reset for them about four months ago. “They helped us tweak our assortments and put in a cross-merchandising plan. It’s a good thing to redo the store’s look every so often,” says Randy.

The reset took three to four weeks, and they found the reset crew to be very helpful. “Robby Blackwood left his number behind and said to call him if we ever had a question,” Randy says.

In addition to giving the sales floor a new look, they expanded some core categories like plumbing and tools. “We took House-Hasson’s suggestions. They did the redesign, even for the auto parts although we don’t buy that category from them,” points out Randy.

He adds, “We’ve gotten a lot of positive comments about the new items we added.”

Another recent change was the decision to go with Titan LED to relamp the store. “It was good to do, because we have higher shelves that let less light get in,” says Randy. “The LED lights make everything on the sales floor come out better. The store is now brighter and cleaner and more pleasing.”

They currently are experiencing growing pains due to their success. “We can’t buy as much inventory as we’d like, so we would like to build on and further expand the business,” Randy says. “We keep buying cargo containers filled with water heaters. We also own a lot of rental properties, so we buy 100 refrigerators a year.”

Nine months ago they added lumber, which enables them to cater to small remodeling jobs. In addition to selling a lot of appliance and RV parts, another strong niche is lawn mower repair parts. “We sell thousands of mower blades and we deliver anywhere in town,” says Randy.

           The big boxes have not had much impact on their business. “Lowe’s is 30 minutes away in Monroe and Home Depot is 35 minutes away. Both send us customers,” Randy points out.

He feels they are competitively priced with House-Hasson’s help. “When you’re doing a large job, Depot will have the big products cheap but everything else for the job is high. Our customers know they can get a fair deal with us,” says Randy.

Their House-Hasson territory manager, Ralph Price, is a real asset to them, according to Randy. “Ralph is a good guy and he acts like a free consultant to our business.”

With years of experience working together, Randy and Rick have settled into a comfortable pattern. “My brother runs the store three days a week and I run it the other three days, although there are a lot of days we come in on our off days,” says Rick. “That has been a nice change for us, and it’s only possible because we have a good team of employees helping us. Randy does more in auto parts and heat pumps, while I’ve concentrated on mobile home parts and the hardware side. I’ve recently delegated the mobile home parts to another guy.”

Both are fans of the Etoolbox website. “The Etoolbox is very user friendly,” says Rick. “It’s easy to look at past sales history and be able to customize prices. It also makes it easier to order our inventory and manage our purchases.”

They have attended nearly every dealer market since they started buying from House-Hasson. “The shows are a good thing to attend. We do a lot of buying and it keeps you abreast of what’s new while getting deals on what we’re selling regularly,” Randy points out.

“We’re buying cheaper every day plus getting a rebate check at the end of the year. You can’t beat that,” Randy says.