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    « Caution Paradigm Shift Ahead | Main | Wanted: Young Professionals Seeking Opportunity »

    April 24, 2006

    Bring Back the Supplies Business

    It is fascinating that so many companies have “Supply” in their business name, but really don’t sell supplies anymore. When I ask why? I usually get the answer - it used to be a large portion of our business, but architects eventually started buying more supplies from catalogs and then the Internet. It was too difficult to compete with this commodity pricing. It just wasn’t profitable. Most reprographers exited that part of their business.

    But some did keep it going. I was surprised recently when an owner told me that it is now very profitable for them. When I think about that company, their office really is a "destination". The front office is always busy. Selling some AEC related supplies fits in well with destination theme. This company not only sold traditional architectural supplies, but also supplies for contractors and surveyors.
    The people who are shopping for these goods are usually not price sensitive. They are impulse buying or convenience buying. Why would I buy a coffee maker at Starbucks, or why would I pay 40% more for milk at the Seven Eleven two blocks away? It is impulse purchases and convenience purchases.

    Think of your locations as destinations and think about what type of goods might fit into the convenience or impulse category. The pricing of these goods will be much less of an issue, and you could find it to be quite profitable. If the goods are chosen and presented carefully it could help in the branding of your location as a “destination”. If you want to validate this concept, just go to Starbucks, or even Kinko’s. Though many people see Kinko’s as a competitor, look at the items that are sold at Kinko’s. They target a specific type of consumer, but are they targeted your typical construction customer?

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