Support Your Community: Shop Local Home Improvement Stores Instead of Big Box Stores

Often, people want to improve their homes, but they just don’t have the patience to try to struggle through trying to get a big box home improvement store employee to help. Surly, clueless hourly employees are just one of the many drawbacks to using a big box store for your renovation project. Instead of making revitalizing your home into a hassle, opt to shop at a locally-owned home improvement store. Not only does a local store offer significantly better service, but they also know their products incredibly well, making it much easier for you to find both the help and knowledge you’ll need to make your project a success.

Better Customer Service

Local home improvement stores can offer a better shopping experience all around. With knowledgeable staff, mom and pop stores have an advantage that big box stores don’t have: personal connections to the customers. Many times local home improvement stores are owned by individuals within the community, and because of this, they have more of investment in their customer service. They help their neighbors, their friends, their friends’ friends; basically they represent the entire community within one store. Because of this, they offer a more personal connection to their customers. Local stores tend to be smaller, which gives them more opportunity to get to know their customers and gives the customer a greater sense of comfort. Often in big box stores, customers have to search out an associate to help them, and most of the associates are not as knowledgeable as the local home improvement store owner.

Specialty Stores

The best kind of locally owned home improvement store is definitely the specialty stores that focus their business on one aspect of home improvement, like flooring, cabinetry or countertops. Specialists like this know their product inside out and are able to make the best recommendations for your specific project. Often, flooring, cabinetry, countertop and other specialty stores also have professional installation teams on staff that can help you take your inspiration and turn it into a reality. Even if you want to go the DIY route, specialized stores are an amazing asset thanks to their extensive knowledge.

Community Connections

Because local home improvement stores are owned by individuals within the community, they also have inside information on contractors, builders, electricians and plumbers. Store owners will know the perfect person to help you with any need; all you have to do is ask. They know the people in the trade and can guide you to the business or individual who can solve your home improvement problem. Local business owners will know the ins and outs of who is a reliable tradesmen and who is not, helping you find individuals who will give you the best customer service for your specific needs.

Community Support

Supporting your local economy is always a great idea. This means money being earned within that county is being applied back to businesses within that community. Big box stores do not have much stake in how well the local economy does, but locally owned businesses will. Putting money back into the community helps to support the county as a whole and keep big businesses from moving in. Also, local home improvement store owners will often refer customers to local tradesmen and businesses, which helps increase the overall revenue within the community. Big box stores may not have such information to give. This not only gives the customer a better experience, but helps promote the community’s economy.

Big Box Home Improvement Store Scorecard

A comprehensive study of 2000 consumers who shopped and made purchases from Home Depot, Lowes and Menards Big Box stores in 2006 has just been completed by Minneapolis, Minnesota based building materials research firm Market Resource Associates, Inc. (MRA)

Consumer respondents had to shop in at least 2 of the chains to qualify for participation and were not paid anything for their cooperation. The out-bound telephone protocol was administered to 56 markets within the 48 contiguous United States between July and October of 2006. The markets and resulting quotas were selected based upon housing activity in 2005. Further, the results of this latest study were compared to results from the same study undertaken two years ago.

In the 122 page comprehensive report, the 3 competitors are rated on 29 different product categories to determine which types of consumers shop for which types of materials at which chains. The 3 chains are also rated against 11 very specific attitudinal criteria. These criteria include but are not limited to:

,,« The store is the absolute best value for my money

,,« The store is the place I get the most useful help when I need it

,,« The store values me as a customer

Also studied was¡K which chains do consumers enter and in which do they actually purchase? In this regard, Home Depot has slipped; Lowes and Menards have improved over the previous study. In fact, Menards is the highest rated chain for the entered / actually purchased category. When consumers go to Menards, they know and find what they want. Slippage can be caused by consumers not finding the items they were looking for, as well as not being able to find assistance from store associates, among other reasons.

As lumber and related items tend to define the Big Box home improvement chain, a loss was noted at all chains in the number of lumber purchasers from the 2004 to the 2006 studies. Home Depot had the largest decline, followed by Menards and then Lowes.

In another category noted for larger projects ¡V rough electrical ¡V Home Depot lost over 40% of its previous purchasers, to Lowes losing 23% and Menards experiencing no change.

One must ask if consumers are becoming less involved in larger projects where these two product types would play a heavy role, or are they seeking other venues for their purchasing? Generally, as the housing market declines, which is true of many areas studied, larger Do-It-Yourself projects flourish as homeowners tend to add on or fix up their existing homes. This is not seen as the case from the data presented.

What Is The Best Way To Purchase A Brand New Dishwasher, Online or Home Improvement Store?

There was a recent article on Yahoo that was talking about the right and wrong things to buy on the internet. One of the things not to buy was an appliance. Of course the most obvious reasons not to buy an expensive appliance on the internet is the hands on approach. It is impossible to look at the appliance, to touch it and feel it, you get the picture. While this is all true there are typically some important benefits to buying online.

The Most Important Benefit Is Savings

Many retailers such as the Home Depot prefer consumers make their purchase online, How do I know this? Free Shipping. The GE Built In Tall Tub Dishwasher is $649 in the store and available for purchase online. More items are purchased on the internet than are not these days. I know the desire to see it and push the buttons to see how it will look in your kitchen, but in actuality, you can not see how it works anyways.

Shipping and Handling

Another issue people run into when they are considering the purchase of a large appliance in person is the shipping and handling. With the economy in the dumps, many consumers are going smaller when it comes to transportation; this means you will likely need to find someone with a truck or van to help you transport your best rated dishwasher. If there is no one available, you then must wait until someone is available or pay the home improvement store to deliver your dishwasher or other item on their schedule. I am a touch and feel type of person and making a large purchase that would affect the appearance of my kitchen makes purchasing online a little difficult but I have found it much more appealing as of late.

Research at Your Fingertips

Whether you are an internet genius or someone with little online knowledge it is quite easy to find all of the necessary information about any given topic on the internet. In going to a home improvement store, I find myself at the mercy of the “knowledgeable associate.” They may or may not know the answers to my questions. If I perform a search on Black or White dishwashers or a specific name brand on the internet, I am flooded with information. If I find the information to be helpful, I feel better about making a purchase via the online search engines.