Joe Taylor doesn’t need a sling to slay giants. He’s got something a whole lot more important, and maybe more rare these days; he’s got customer loyalty.
Taylor is the third generation leader of Taylor’s do it centers, the local hardware store chain with 11 locations sprinkled across south Hampton Roads. Along with his brothers and his crew, Taylor does battle constantly with the tug that we locals feel from the big box stores. But customer loyalty brings a sense of staying power to Taylor’s that, at least in one case, has helped the company outlast a giant competitive threat.
I met Joe Taylor several weeks ago after one of those local business breakfasts that Cox and Inside Business put on. I just wanted to let him know what a loyal supporter and fan I have been of his store in the Haygood area of Virginia Beach for almost 30 years. We talked about the once-upon-a-time plan to shutter the store (it never happened), and we mused about the fact that Lowe’s, who bought a huge chunk of property about a half-mile down Independence Blvd, had decided not to build there. Taylor’s comment to me, “that’s great, but I won’t be happy until they actually sell that property.”
Well happy day, Joe. I read recently in Virginia Business Magazine that Divaris Realty’s Eric Bucklew took care of that problem for you. The buyer is planning another shopping center or mixed-use development. Chalk one up for the little guys; the little guys with big brand loyalty and staying power.
I know what keeps me coming back to Taylor’s. I can find stuff that I need, and I can get in and out in five minutes. But I wondered how Joe would define it. I asked him what he see as the magic formula that has kept the family business going for 87 years.
He gave me four key focal points:
- “Our stores are very clean, organized, and well lighted which is an important start in attracting customers, especially the female customer which is 55% of our customers.”
- “Convenience. Whether it is a big box or one of our stores, many customers are busy and choose the closest store. We work hard to find locations in the neighborhoods in which our customers live.” Good strategy, I have to drive by at least one Taylor’s on my way to either of the big box stores.
- Taylor feels customers expect good service at a big box, but likely won’t get it. “When a customer shops in a Taylor’s location, they expect good customer service, and they better get it,” he told me.
- Niche products and services. Like those greenhouses that spring up every April, Stihl power tools and the whole line of Weber grills, not just one or two choices.
He went on to say that Taylor’s has been very careful to stay close to its local roots. Not just in giving back 10% of profits, but also in carefully executing its expansion strategies. According to Joe, “Taylor’s Do it centers is a familiar company to many in the Hampton Roads region. However, should I venture more than 30 miles away in any direction to locate another store, I would have to work much harder to establish our brand and educate our customer about Taylor’s.”
Disciplined business, customer and marketing strategies pay off well for the long haul. And as for that female focus, I just remembered my wife wants some of those fancy rubber boots right by the cash register.