When you’re competing against giants, efficiency is key!
Can a single store retailer thrive among competitors such as Rotmans, Jordan’s, Bernie & Phyl’s, Bob’s Discount Furniture and others? If you are brothers Stephen and Jimmy O’Coin, the answer is yes! O’Coins HomeBrands' Worcester Massachusetts store has customers north to the New Hampshire border, south to the Connecticut border, east halfway to Boston and west halfway to Springfield. The O’Coin’s business model is an excellent example for similar retailers throughout the USA and Canada.
The O’Coin brothers own and jointly manage the firm founded by their father in 1950. The business moved three times before building a new store at the current Mill Street site in 1962. Subsequent additions in 1965 and 1976 tripled the total floor space to 53,000 square feet, including a 14,000 square foot warehouse. The facility has been routinely updated to present a sparkling environment to customers.
New Flexsteel and Rowe galleries and lines from La-Z-Boy, Lane Action, Moosehead, Sealy, Stearns & Foster, Tempur-Pedic, GE, Whirlpool, Amana, Maytag, Jenn-Air and Bosch offer customers an excellent product selection. The store’s marketing program is primarily directed to women in the 22 to 55 age group. Media selection includes newspaper flyers, quarterly direct mailings plus local cable TV. Their highly successful web site www.ocoinshomebrands.com provides a virtual tour of the store, an on-line credit application and a wealth of information that prepares customers for an O’Coin’s HomeBrands shopping expedition. Feedback from customers indicates that they appreciate the fact that the O’Coins make themselves available, as well as their long standing commitment to service.
As O’Coins grew, the store purchased supplemental warehousing from their delivery contractor. This solution created a challenging situation for O’Coins due to difficulty coordinating inventory and prep from two warehouses, plus daily delivery of appliances from a nearby buying group.
The purchase of an existing 30,000 square foot distribution center with expansion capability only 1.2 miles away was completed in late summer, 2003. Renovation started immediately with the goal of completion within three months. A detailed inventory evaluation showed that existing conventional racking, supplemented with used cantilever racks would meet their current and projected needs.
The sprinkler system was upgraded for furniture storage. Recognizing the vast improvement in technology, inefficient metal halide lighting was replaced with individually sensored florescent fixtures. Activated by someone entering the area, two lit tubes are instantly supplemented by an additional four. Another benefit is that the lighting is color corrected so merchandise has the same appearance in the prep area as in the customers’ homes. The investment was offset by electric company incentives resulting in an 18 month payback and ongoing future savings.
Warehouse employees quickly adapted to the radio frequency bar coding system that was implemented during the move. Steve O’Coin trained with warehouse staff on the Crown pickers that replaced hand trucks used in the old operation. The flow of materials from receiving to prep and delivery is now smooth and efficient. Trash and corrugated handling has been simplified with two compactors; a conventional compactor for corrugated and a crusher compactor for plastic, crates and defective furniture. These efficiencies contribute to competitive advantage and bottom line profitability of the operation.
Bottom line, Jimmy and Stephen O’Coin have prepared for ongoing success by making their store a destination for customers in their market area through effective marketing, technology, great product lines, well maintained facilities and overall outstanding customer service. It isn’t rocket science but reflects excellent execution of basic business fundamentals.
Daniel Bolger of The Bolger Group helps companies achieve improved transportation, warehousing and logistics. Questions can be directed to Mr. Bolger care of FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.