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Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: anonymouse1
Date: January 12, 2009 11:43AM
I'm planning to start an online business, a key part of which is selling a package of hardware parts (screws, hinges, electrical cord, etc.). I'm looking for a reliable online hardware store to partner with.

In other words, I'd put together a list of parts, which we can call "Set A". When I receive an order from my customers, it would flow to the hardware store, along with a payment. Then the hardware store would ship a Set A to that customer. I'd estimate the total cost of each Set A to be about $10 to $20, plus shipping.

Can anybody recommend a good hardware store or wholesaler to work with on this?

Thanks!
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: space-time
Date: January 12, 2009 11:56AM
why would the customer order from you and not from the hardware store directly?
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: mattkime
Date: January 12, 2009 12:09PM
how much does the stuff weigh?



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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: clay
Date: January 12, 2009 12:10PM
I don't have any numbers to base this on, but I would tend to think you'd have a hard time finding a warehouser/dropshipper to work with you, unless you're expecting a high volume of sales on a regular basis.

Are you talking about 5 of these sets a month? Or 5,000? If on the lower end of that scale, why not just put together maybe 25 of those kits together at a time by yourself, and ship them out as ordered. That way, you don't get yourself into a contractual agreement that requires X number of kits per month or cash equivalent, especially if your sales are lower than expected. You may not get as much profit as you'd like in the beginning, but at least you won't lose tons of money or be shoehorned into a contract that doesn't fit exactly what you need.

I'm all for streamlining processes, but I've also been part of several e-commerce projects where we could have definitely started smaller, and built out/farmed out specific functionality like this as the sales volume grew.
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: anonymouse1
Date: January 12, 2009 12:25PM
Ok:

The customer orders from me because otherwise they don't know what to order. I can set it up so that the customer orders directly from the store, but that's more hassle for the customer--then they have to pay me for the plans and pay the hardware store for the kit.

As for clay's point, I'm not expecting the hardware store to assemble kits, just to ship out an order just like they would any other order. The only difference here is that the customer orders a "Set A" and the hardware store translates that into "two hinges, 8 screws, 2.5 ft of 12 gauge electrical cord", etc.
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: Buckeye_Sean
Date: January 12, 2009 12:40PM
I agree with Clay. Unless you're talking about hundreds or thousands of kits per month I doubt any hardware store (save a mom & pop) would bother. Too much paperwork, special procedures, making sure their employees understand who you are, how many kits you have, what your kits consist of etc... Realize you are asking for a special service which benefits you and doesn't benefit the hardware store any more than customer "X" ordering directly from their website.

I would check locally, maybe a mom and pop wouldn't mind doing this for you. Or as Clay suggested invest in putting together a small number of these kits yourself and see how it goes. Mark them up a little to make money and for the added convenience. It's done all the time.




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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: Ammo
Date: January 12, 2009 12:41PM
I'm in for 2.
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: TLB
Date: January 12, 2009 12:43PM
Can you just create saved "Wish Lists" or shopping carts with a vendor that have your desired part sets. Name the saved carts appropriately (Set A, Set B, etc). Then you just order with a different ship to address? Seems easier for a startup than getting into a formal agreement.
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: anonymouse1
Date: January 12, 2009 12:44PM
Arrgh!

Right now, I can go to dozens of different hardware stores online, and order all these components, because it's stuff they have on the shelf right now.

What difference does it make if I call it "Set A"? Okay, what if I keep a copy of the order on my desktop, and order it each time, using cut and paste, only shipping each order to a different address? Do you really think a hardware store won't do that?
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: clay
Date: January 12, 2009 12:44PM
I guess my other question/suggestion would be for you to ship out the hardware kits as a "value added" service/product. Instead of giving folks a laundry list of things they need to purchase from the hardware vendor, and instead of going through the initial hassle of making arrangements with the hardware vendor, put the kits together yourself as a convenience to the buyer.

Are you shipping out another physical product? Would it make sense for you to ship out both the hardware kit and other physical items in the same shipment? Or is it a virtual product (PDF, etc)? I'd be willing to pay a few extra bucks to get everything from the same place and not have the hassle of needing to place orders with 2 separate vendors.

Just some of my thoughts...

Quote
anonymouse1
Ok:

The customer orders from me because otherwise they don't know what to order. I can set it up so that the customer orders directly from the store, but that's more hassle for the customer--then they have to pay me for the plans and pay the hardware store for the kit.

As for clay's point, I'm not expecting the hardware store to assemble kits, just to ship out an order just like they would any other order. The only difference here is that the customer orders a "Set A" and the hardware store translates that into "two hinges, 8 screws, 2.5 ft of 12 gauge electrical cord", etc.
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: space-time
Date: January 12, 2009 12:56PM
do the kits yourself, buy hinge X from Home Depot, screw Y from Lowes, and cord Z from Ace Hardware, based on who has the lowest price, and you increase your profit margin. Then throw the assembly instructions in the box, and ship the whole thing to the customer.
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: anonymouse1
Date: January 12, 2009 12:59PM
clay, you nailed it. I'm trying to ship a "hardware only" kit to avoid the hassle of manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping the rest of it--the hardware might weigh two pounds, the rest of it might weigh 10 pounds, and be much bulkier.

I want to put my toes in the water first. Selling the plans and hardware is a low-risk, low-hassle way of getting started. I'd probably get more sales with a complete package, but it's a LOT more effort. Also, at that point the prices start getting nearly as high as the existing pre-built competition.
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: mattkime
Date: January 12, 2009 01:18PM
i generally agree with the problems outlined in the thread. its unlikely a vendor is going to want to work with you because of the communication issues involved.

figure out how to buy the parts in bulk, spend an hour or two assembling them into little bags and make dropping them into the mail as streamline as possible.



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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: space-time
Date: January 12, 2009 01:22PM
I don't think he's interested in doing all that. I think all he wants is to write a nice PDF on how to make the stuff and sell that. not that there is anything wrong.
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: TheTominator
Date: January 12, 2009 01:29PM
Try Jack's Tool Shed.
[www.jackstoolshed.com]

They are very accommodating.

I saw a product of theirs in their Amazon affiliate store. I had a question. I surfed over to their website and easily found an e-mail address. I asked my question about a $15 item (which required somebody to locate the item, take the item out of the box, and measure a specific aspect of it with a ruler or calipers). I thought it was a long shot that I'd get any reply other than a boilerplate link to the manufacturer's page or something.

Within a few hours of my e-mail, somebody did the measurement on the item in their stock, and sent me a very friendly, helpful, and informative e-mail.

That was top notch customer service on even a low-priced item.

If I were to make a guess on a hardware store helping you satisfy your custom needs, it would be them.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/12/2009 01:52PM by TheTominator.
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Re: Online hardware store to partner with?
Posted by: anonymouse1
Date: January 12, 2009 01:47PM
Thanks, space-time--that's the business I want to start in. If there's a ton of demand for full kits, then I can look to get into it.
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