Posted by: Diane Capuano
In the most current edition of “Retailer to Retailer,” we introduce you to PDRA Board Member Charles Smith, Smith Paint Co. Inc., Roswell, N.M. Learn a bit about his background and his work with the PDRA Board in the Q&A interview, below:
Q: Can you provide a bit of background about you and your store?
A: My dad started the business in 1967. I had worked off and on for him through high school and college. After college, I went to work as a bookkeeper for a construction company. It only took a few months to realize that I wasn’t meant to sit behind a desk. I worked as a sales rep for a paint sundry wholesaler for about a year and then as a rep for major paint company for about six years. They were both great jobs, but I wanted to get back to retail. I came back to work “on the other side of the counter” in 1981, and I’ve been here ever since.
Q: What is it about your business that sets you apart from other paint and decorating stores in your community?
A: The only way you can really differentiate yourself from other stores is customer service. We are all selling similar or the same products. Service has always been the main focus of our business. In the 1970s, my dad started keeping color and product records for the contractor and retail trade. We have boxes and boxes of index cards, which we still refer to occasionally. We continue to keep our customers’ purchase histories. I think the greatest asset that sets us apart are our employees. The same people have worked here for years. Customers know they can rely on our years of experience to take care of their needs. If we don’t have an item the customer wants, we will help them find it.
Q: Can you tell us about your experience with PDRA (and its predecessor organization NDPA)?
A: I imagine my dad became a member of the NDPA shortly after he opened his business. We’ve been a member of the NDPA/PDRA for as long as I can remember. Our relationship with the NDPA/PDRA has been very beneficial. Over the years, we participated in employee training programs, newspaper advice columns, personalized “how-to” booklets and insurance programs. The NDPA shows in Chicago and the current PDRA show in Las Vegas offer a wealth of information. Seeing new products, meeting with vendors and other retailers is invaluable to me.
Q: The PDRA Board has been involved in social media in a big way in the last couple of years. What type of social media are you involved in? What role does social media play in helping the business of an independent paint and decorating retailer?
A: I’m slowly becoming more involved with social media. I have a couple of websites and I’ve signed on to LinkedIn. I don’t have my business on Facebook or Twitter yet, but I’m in the process of becoming more involved. There is no doubt as to the importance of social media. Some of my peers on the PDRA Board have totally embraced the use of social media in their businesses and have been very successful. PDRA is in the process of educating our members how to become more involved in social media and how to use it to their best advantage.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your committee assignment on the PDRA Board and the priorities you have for 2012?
A: I am on the Education Committee. We are in the process of introducing our newest online education program. We have had great success with PDRA Coating specialist program and have followed it up with a new customer service program. Cost will be $79 for PDRA members and $199 for non-members. Your employee can have great technical and product knowledge, but it’s useless if he doesn’t treat the customer properly.
Q: Give us your best “sales pitch” regarding why an independent paint store owner should join PDRA.
A: I’ve been a member of PDRA for over 30 years. PDRA offers independent retailers many great membership benefits. You have access to education, such as the online paint course and the upcoming customer service training program, both offered to members at a discounted rate. There are also several business benefits, such as discounts on office supplies from Office Max and discounts on shipping services through FedEx and UPS.
My business recently changed to the PDRA credit card processing program. The membership dues are $149 a year, and we save over twice that amount every month just on credit card processing fees alone. If you don’t save money on the program, you’ll receive a free $100 Visa gift card, so you have nothing to lose by trying it.
I also feel it’s a benefit to attend the annual trade show, which this year takes place May 1-3 in Las Vegas. It’s an opportunity to share your knowledge and experience with other retailers. You learn so much from your peers that you really can’t afford not to go.
PDRA is the independent paint dealer’s connection to the industry. It will keep you updated on new products and industry trends. You will join hundreds of other independent paint retailers like yourself. It’s a great way to stay in touch with your peers—retailer to retailer.
Tags: Retailer to Retailer