By Sam Abdelnour, YSN Guest Columnist
These are difficult times for our country and the world around us.
Difficult yes, but not completely unfamiliar. We have faced seemingly insurmountable challenges before. In the last 30 years we have seen recessions, economic collapse, civil unrest, health crises, political divide and an attack on our homeland on September 11, 2001.
What separates us from other countries is the American spirit and resolve to get up, move forward from adversity, and get back to business!
If you think about it, the appliance industry has followed a similar pattern. It too has faced adversity in the form of quality issues, supply and distribution challenges and new government-mandated energy requirements. The manufacturers, like all of you as retailers, find ways to stay positive, figure out solutions, get back on track and move forward.
The interesting news about our current situation is that appliance sales have remained strong despite the recent challenges, and in some cases, retailers are reporting record sales over the last couple months. As we all know, the industry relies heavily on replacement; appliance replacement represents two-thirds of the industry. If a product fails and can’t be repaired, it has to be replaced. So regardless of the current environment all consumers need clean clothes, clean dishes, cold beverages and hot food! Industry sales and shipments have been fairly stable for more than 30 years, meaning nothing about those consumer needs has changed for decades.
What can change during these difficult times is a loss of focus on what is truly important for our businesses. Consumers are shopping differently, relying more heavily on digital information, and are now more willing than ever to complete that transaction online.
Are you thinking about how you are interacting with consumers and what they need to see when they engage with you? Are you making it simple to interact with you where it’s convenient for them? Is your showroom safe and inviting for those consumers leaving their homes and venturing into your stores? Have you taken precautions to protect the health of consumers and your staff?
What hasn’t changed is that consumers need and rely on appliances every day. They want them quickly and they need your expertise in finding the perfect solution to meet their needs.
This is just common sense, and as successful businesspeople and leaders in your communities you know this! So consider this a reminder, a little pep talk to get you through this latest challenge. In order to stay focused on what is important and exceed the needs of your customers during these unusual times, consider the following:
- Get the word out that you are open and available to meet their needs.
- Let consumers know you can provide a plethora of solutions based on the brands and products you sell.
- Engage consumers on social media, sharing information about your business and what you provide.
- Make sure consumers know you can deliver and install quickly, professionally and safely.
- Talk about the inventory you carry to meet the needs of the owners of the two-thirds of all industry units that fail and need to be replaced every day.
- Communicate with your employees about the opportunities you see. Ensure they have the training and tools they need to deliver exceptional customer service.
- Engage in conversations with your suppliers that allow them to understand your strategy so they can better meet your needs for product, marketing, promotion and inventory levels.
- Never lose focus of your customers and the value you can provide to them.
Yes, these are difficult times, but we have certainly faced seemingly insurmountable challenges before. And as we have in the past, we will get through. Remember, the one thing that lasts longer than challenging times is our resiliency. It requires focus, but we will learn invaluable lessons that will make us even stronger than before.
Sam Abdelnour is a 40-year veteran of Whirlpool Corp., where he led retail and builder channel sales and launched the company’s “Real Whirled” sales training program and Winner’s Circle Sales Competition. A fixture at BrandSource Conventions and Summits, he received the group’s Lifetime Achievement Award upon his retirement in 2018. Contact Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org.