Marion council discusses Hillsboro mystery business

Hillsboro?s mystery business made its way into the Sept. 2 Marion City Council meeting when one council member requested information about these ?big box? retailers.
Councilor Jerry Dieter said he spoke with Roger Holter, city administrator, about rumors of a Wal-Mart Express and said he heard a lot of gloom and doom from acquaintances around town.
Dieter said he asked Holter to put together some research on what is going on and thought Holter did an excellent job.
?I had a successful career as a strategic planner for a big box company,? Holter said. ?We launched in communities where we were buying out the local guy to supplementing them.?
Holter said big box stores can bring a lot of resources, but there is one thing they will never bring, and one thing that exists today.
?It?s a matter of helping our businessmen and women reach in and figure out that here is the key,? he said.
During his years with larger companies, Holter said he had a staff of 400 people in one building.
?Right down the street was an Ace Hardware Store which had been there for years and years,? he said, ?and they had four employees.?
Those four employees, Holter explained, cost him about 15 percent of his pro forma operating budget.
Knowing customers
The reason was because they knew everybody and they spoke to customers by name.
?They knew what their children did and if somebody needed help, they rolled up their sleeves and went to work (helping),? he said.
Regarding the store coming to Hillsboro, Holter said that even with 20 people employed from the area, their orientation will be done the corporate way.
?You have to do this and you can?t bend that policy,? he said, ?but yet we have a grocer that has been here for many years and Linda (Carlson) made sure my mother-in-law had this, this and this and I was in another part of the country.?
The point Holter wanted to make was that in a big box store?s orientation classes, employees wouldn?t even learn one another?s names for fear productivity would go down.
If the store does come, Holter said they will bring sales tax to Marion County.
?State law reads (sales tax) will stay, and payroll, like it or not, stays here. The employment taxes go along with that?going to the state but ending up coming back to the local community,? he said.
Time to step up
Holter explained to the council that when all is said and done, it really means the businesses that are legacy businesses need to step up because big boxes aren?t that good.
?Why do you think they saturate markets? They are just trying to glean what easy pickings are there,? he said.
Not meaning to sound like an editorial, Holter said someone called and asked him why the city would help bring an Ace Hardware to town and now it?s going to close when Wal-Mart comes.
Holter said he told the caller that Wal-Mart and Ace Hardware don?t even play in the same arena.
?But the second thing is that they have to work on any hardlines products, filling it from a distribution center to the store, and it is not same day service and not next day guaranteed,? he said.
The size store slotted for Hillsboro will do between $3.5 and $4.5 million a year in sales, Holter said, but he has heard $50 million batted around.
?I can guarantee from personal experience that a 20-staff operation will not do $50 million.
?Given all that, we don?t have to worry about our lumberyards or hardware stores,? he said. ?
Change is fearsome, but it doesn?t have to be. We just have to get better at what we do and there?s nothing wrong with a little bit of competition.?
The businesses that decide they plan to win will win, he said, and those that decide they are entitled Holter apologized.
?Their entitlement is probably going to be up,? he said.
Breed competition
Councilor Chad Adkins said he sees a lot of good things coming from this.
?It is going to breed competition and competition is awesome,? he said.
?I am not wanting to run to Wal-Mart in our county. It is going to be how we choose to deal with it.?
Dieter said he believes our business people will need to be clever.
?Maybe businesses need to consider delivery, credit at times, and also sharpen their pencils on their business practices.
Holter also explained that local businesses can educate themselves on the top 10 ways to beat a big box store.
?If anyone needs help, we have an economic development director who can get a website presence going,? he said.
Top 10
Those top 10 ways, Holter said, include targeting the higher end by offering higher quality items.
Another way is creating a meaningful online presence by developing customer emails, blogs, and getting more involved in social media.
Offering specialty items is another way small businesses have an advantage over big box stores. One example involved a grocery store and how one small grocer offered European meats that he knew residents were looking for.
Listening to your customers and greeting them each time they walk into a business.
Community involvement gives small business the opportunity to make connections that a big box store isn?t capable of doing.
Providing extra services in addition to selling a product is another way. Some examples include offering repairs, installation or other services.
Practicing top-notch customer service is something every customer wants. Everyone likes to be recognized.
Changing products and vendors is something small businesses can easily do and providing meaningful merchandise by offering those special gifts.
Establishing convenience is another way to help shoppers get in and out with ease. In larger stores, people spend too much time maneuvering their way though the store, wasting time.
For more information about strengthening businesses or ideas in marketing, call Terry Jones, economic development director at 620-382-3993. In Hillsboro, call Clint Seibel at 620-947-3458.

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