There’s a difference between vision and planning when it comes to having an appliance store. In our case, we had a warehouse in Suwanee, GA at the same time we were focusing on building our trucking company beginning in late 2021. Business had been okay, but then we no longer had that warehouse anymore. Our website remained up, however, and likewise with the search engine optimization that was developed from the start. When we found that many people were calling asking about appliances and appliance parts, we knew that there was still much untapped potential in what we were doing.
Finding a New Location
Thus, we found a decent location in Doraville to restart our operations last year. Simultaneously, we struck out on our own with a box truck company and together, we were able to find a sustainable way to get new and refurbished appliances from deliveries that were being made through our trucking company. A lot of the appliances we found were ones that these customers didn’t want anymore, so we’d fix them up. Other appliances from this were returns that were brand new and only had minor dings and scratches. At the beginning of this year, we put a lot into our marketing and started seeing massive results. It was shocking to see how many people were finding us just through search and paid ads alone, as well as selling our stuff from time to time on Facebook Marketplace.
The momentum grew for a while, and we continued to expand our advertising on Google while making some mistakes along the way. During the first year of business, we were attempting to find our niche. There were so many people calling about appliance parts which were not part of our business at all. Other potential customers found us through Google, but lived further away than we expected so we made the mistake of taking on these customers. It was the classic mistake of taking on way more than we could chew, so when there were problems months down the line, it was difficult to follow up with them. We learned the hard way what our true niche is and which customers we should focus on the most.
Fast forward towards this summer when we needed to supplement our income. We had a lot of renovations and construction projects near the Jacksonville, Florida area. It seemed like a good idea to diversify a bit and leave the business in the hands of two of our employees. However, the returns from working down there were not what we expected. Plus, we also shut down our trucking company due to the massive overhead and commercial insurance costs. So that left us with the appliance store to take care of.
Since we hadn’t been as involved in the business as before, there were many things that were left by the wayside, especially our old Google My Business page. Because we were so focused on keeping the lights on, other expenses like business internet were cut off for a while, affecting our ability to print invoices and charge via debit and credit card.
It was an extremely trying time with all this going on. People trying to reach us through a business number that wasn’t working anymore, and all the frustration that came from not being able to follow up with our customers in time. The biggest wake up call was dealing with our first low rated review on Google and our Apple Maps page as well as Facebook Marketplace. We realized that there was a lot of work to do to completely change the way things had been done at the store in the last several months.
Cleaning Up and Streamlining Our Store
So, we did a complete cleanup of our store, getting rid of super old inventory that didn’t work anymore or couldn’t be fixed. Then we brought in much newer or refurbished appliances instead and strengthened our partnership with those who could properly repair these items. And then we got our label maker to work after much trial and error, a common complaint we received during our first year of operation out of the Doraville area. Then we printed out new business cards with our current phone number on there and the rest is history. Once we got our business internet, phone and TV reconnected, we knew we were going to get back on track.
Various Lessons We Learned
The reason we’re writing this post is a cautionary tale for new small business owners out there. Here are some of the biggest lessons we learned from operating our own appliance store for the first year:
1. Always focus on providing the best customer service you can. It’s not just about having inventory, but more about interacting with people and helping them find better deals on what they need most. Don’t take this for granted!
2. Know what your niche is from the very beginning. Quickly find out where you want to focus your business on and which customers you want most. If you do a good enough job for those customers, everything will take care of itself from there.
3. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Not every customer is going to be the best fit for your business. If you’re strapped for cash and find yourself having to deliver to areas far beyond your reach, don’t take on those customers. Don’t be afraid to say no if they’re not the right fit. That goes for what kinds of appliances you’re willing to accept from those who are selling them. Know what you want and be firm in your decisions.
4. Don’t throw in the towel so quickly. It may not seem like you’re making that much money at first, but you must stick with it long-term to see results. Keep learning from your mistakes and always strive to do better.
This is a brief look into what it takes to run an appliance store, especially with limited resources. It can be done but will take lots of time, dedication and patience. Same goes for any new small business you have an idea for. If you’d like to reach out to us to learn more about what we do, feel free to contact us! Thank you for your support.