On November 11, the family will take this success to Greenville, expanding a local operation that has yielded some of the top awards available to Sears Hometown store owners.
Hardy retired from the Delta State University CIS department in 2008, where he had served as a professor and spent a year as the chair of the of the accounting CIS program. He says he had never aspired to have a business of his own, but he turned out to be a natural.
“My son (DD) actually gave me the idea,” Hardy said. “He saw an ad for this store being up for sale, and we did some investigation.”
The Hardy family has been a fixture in the community for a lot of years. Hardy himself graduated from Cleveland High, and he went on to attend and instruct at DSU. His wife, Annette, is a retired school teacher, and his daughter Lisa works for the Cleveland School District.
“We have a strong connection to the community,” Hardy said. “Sears strives to put people in these stores who are already in the community.”
After seeing all of the right people, Hardy was able to make the former owner, Mike Parker, an offer on the business. The two shook hands, and the rest has been solid sales history for Hardy.”
With DD Hardy running the store, and Lisa acting as part owner, the business began to flourish. Eventually, DD would buy out his sister’s share, leaving he and his dad as co-owners.
In 2010, Hardy’s store took in over $3 million in sales. That earned the staff Sears’ Yearly Five Star Award, which only went to a half dozen stores last year.
“We think we’ve improved customer service here at the store,” Hardy said. “I know we’ve improved the sales. The store has received many awards (a testament to a great staff).”
That improved service has led to more than triple the sales from the original year the doors opened. Hardy attributes this surge to his solid crew, and he says practices and “Store to Web” like price matching have also increased sales.
“If it’s the same item, we’ll price match it, plus 10 percent of the difference,” Hardy said. “That’s been a big selling point for us.” Store to Web allows us to order almost any item Sears sells for our customers. We have two computers dedicated to this service and last year we led the enitire Southeast in Store to Web sales.
Hardy says that price matching with big companies like Lowe’s isn’t always necessary.
“Nine times out of 10, I’ve found that we are cheaper than Lowe’s,” Hardy said. “A lot of people think because Lowe’s is big, you’re going to get something cheaper, but not necessarily.”
Hardy has been able to keep his sales team motivated through one of the worst economic times in the nation’s history. To Hardy, that’s the most impressive thing about all of the numbers.
“It’s really unbelievable,” Hardy said. “I look at our daily sales and compare them to last year, and we’re up 35 percent from last year in sales. It’s really pleasing to be able to do that in this economy.”
Hardy says the products he sells are all the latest, and there are a few items in the store that are setting the tone for the future.
“We offer all of the up-to-date items that are available,” Hardy said. “We don’t have it on the floor yet, but there’s a touch screen waher and dryer available(can be ordered). I’m anxious to get one on the floor to show the customers.
Over the last year, Hardy has been in negotiations with several entities, trying to get a store located in Greenville. Sears had a previous 40-year run at the Greenville Mall, but closed their doors in 2009. When they wanted a new hometown store in the river town, Hardy was their first choice.
“Sears actually contacted me, I guess since we had done so well here, and we were close,” Hardy said. “They asked me if I’d be interested in opening another store in Greenville. They wanted somebody who was willing to work, hire the right people and get the job done.
The main issue for Hardy had been finding the new store’s home. Greenville citizens will be thrilled to learn the store is returning to its orignial location, better than ever.
“We finally came into an agreement with the Greenville Mall,” Hardy said. “They’re going to renovate the front of the store, where Sears was located, and I’m going to have the southeast corner of that building.”
Hardy says the Greenville Mall is revamping their entire structure to accomodate the appliance store, and he says customers will not be disappointed.
“It’s going to be what’s called a store of the future,” Hardy said. “It’s going to blow people’s minds when they see what this looks like. DD and I are even talking about upgrading the Cleveland store to a “Store of the Future.”
More than that, it’s going to provide several new jobs to the mall, which had been lost since the last store’s closure.
“I’ve had about 10 calls from people who used to work there, who want to get their jobs back” Hardy said.
According to Hardy, the population surrounding Greenville should make this store his most successful.
“There’s probably more potential, sales wise, than there is here,” Hardy said. “In a 10 mile radius of that Greenville store, there’s probably 65,000 people.
Hardy maintains, however, that there’s more to success than just a good head for business and a great sales line.
“It doesn’t matter what you know or how good you are at selling,” Hardy said. “You’ve got to have good employees, who follow that same philosophy.”
Hardy says that his store was fortunate to already have a fine sales person in Martha Walters when he first came on board. Another associate, Trey Sanders, will be moving down to manage the Greenville store, while DD oversees the entire operation.
Hardy said that Nathan Woodard, Stephanie Finley, Clint Couey and Cody Woods have made all the differnce in the world for his business.
Though he’s going to lose a few of his current Greenville customers to the store closer to home, Hardy feels certain that as long as his crew stays intact, and maintains their sound sales philosophy, the two stores will continue to be elite.