3 R’s
Farm & Home fine tuning during 2012
By Mark Sherry
Mark Sherry photo
Lisa Lane of Farm & Home’s Pet Department in Chilton scoops a fish out of the new tank system at the store.

At Farm & Home in Chilton, people can buy routers, rakes and ripsaws, not to mention thousands of other items starting with just about every letter in the alphabet.

But routers, rakes and ripsaws are not the “three R’s” which Farm & Home owners Kim McKeen and Dwight Bloohm will be focusing on during 2012. They said the year ahead will be a time to review, revise and replace.

“Farm & Home is all you need under one roof,” McKeen said, but that does not happen by accident. The owners and employees must constantly assess what sells well, what is not selling well and what they can do better to continue to make the store at 519 N. Madison St. (STH 32/57) a shopping destination for people from throughout the area.

To that end, it is good to have a partner like Do It Best, the national cooperative which has over 65,000 items available to Farm & Home and its customers. Farm & Home made the switch to Do It Best several years ago, and McKeen said, “They’re probably the best we’ve ever had in working with a coop.”

Finger on American’s pulse

Do It Best assists in keeping its finger on the pulse of America’s shopping trends. “The trends and markets have changed,” McKeen said. Among the factors which have contributed to changing trends are the plethora of home improvement TV programs, an economy which has more people doing face lifts to their homes rather than building new ones, and the home improvement industry’s willingness to give consumers a lot more choices in all areas.

On that latter point, McKeen used the example of doorknobs. Thirty years ago a store might carry a choice of two doorknobs. These days a store might have a display with a dozen choices, and dozens more are available to the consumer with a click of a computer mouse.

That is a good reminder that if Farm & Home customers do not see what they are looking for in the store, just ask. Farm & Home employees can order anything Do It Best has to offer and it will be in Chilton in a couple days.

To make sure the store does indeed stock as many possible items as customers want, a review process began several months ago and will continue throughout this year. McKeen said he is comparing what Farm & Home has to what Do It Best has to offer. They are also analyzing pricing strategies.

Similarly, Do It Best employees are going to their suppliers to ask them to sharpen prices and selections, all of which will benefit Farm & Home customers.

As an example of what this will mean to Farm & Home, McKeen said a review was recently completed for one area of the store and in a single aisle 348 new items have been added.

Following the review, revisions will be needed. Farm & Home employees will examine how much room they have and where their prices are at.

Replacing items

The “R” customers will see is “replace.” McKeen said, “Something is going to have to give.” Items which have not been selling will be replaced by those they think will. “You wouldn’t think hardware is trendy,” McKeen said. “It’s not as trendy as clothing, but it is trendy.”

McKeen said he and Bloohm have been in the business so long that sometimes they find themselves attached to some of the items they have had in the store for years. “I love to be proven wrong,” McKeen said. He told the recent story about Farm & Home adding gate hardware, even though they did not think it would sell. Within days of adding the display, a customer was there raving about the addition, the great prices on the items and how it was just what his business needed.

The review, revise and replace sequence already can be seen in other corners of Farm & Home. The popular pet department has been reset with a new tropical fish system installed. About 70 different varieties of fish are available, with the tanks color coded so that customers will know which fish do well together. “Our pet department brings a whole new segment of customers into our store,” McKeen said.

Farm & Home also has changed the lines of dog and cat food it offers, focusing on American-made products to ensure quality, safe meals for pets. “Pets are part of the family,” McKeen said.

Farm & Home also is working with a new lawn and garden statuary supplier in order to bring new selections of fountains, bird baths, etc. to customers. “People want different, they want unique,” McKeen said.

In the paint department, Farm & Home has added a contractor’s line of Valspar paint to its offerings. The paint is designed to do a better job covering up nicks and dings, and it also can be applied in slightly colder conditions than other paint (down to about 40 F instead of the usual 50 F).

Farm & Home also offers the computerized systems which can match paint for a color swatch about the size of a quarter, and also stores customers’ paint information in the computer for possible future reference.

McKeen recalled the story of a customer who came in with their child who wanted to paint their room the purple color of the Barney dinosaur character. Farm & Home was able to get an edge of a Barney stuffed animal into its color scanner and match the paint color exactly. “Barney would have been proud of us,” McKeen said.

“We make every attempt to listen to our customers,” he added, which is why the process of review, revise and replace really never ends at Chilton’s Farm & Home.