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Lessons Learned from Green Business Venture Case Study: Plan-It Hardware

A green products merchandising and distribuiton "Case Study" tracks the first comprehensive green product merchandising and distribution program in the home improvements products industry

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PROBLEM | Businesses exist within an Economy and there's still a bleeding edge.

SOLUTION | Learn from one another and continue the campaign for change to a better Economy.

The Case Study of Plan-It Hardware tracks the first comprehensive green product merchandising and distribution program in the home improvements products industry and provides insight into what works and where the challenges are for mature green businesses in a mature industry.

Jay Tompt, founder of William Verde & Associates provides a very enlightening case study we can all learn from. Before starting William Verde & Associates, Jay was Vice President and co-founder of Plan-It Hardware™, the first comprehensive green products distributor in the hardware and home improvement industry.

Here's an excerpt from Jay's case study, but you might want to read the complete article on his website,

The impetus for Plan-It Hardware originated with the ownership of California Hardware, a company whose roots went back to the Gold Rush. It once dominated the industry in California, but globalization and the appearance of the Big Box retail chains soon reduced it into a secondary or tertiary supplier for most of it's customers. Though by numbers the bulk of the customers were small, independently owned hardware stores, the bulk of the revenue came from a small chain of home centers in Southern California who were rising with the housing boom. Ownership saw the development of a green business initiative as an opportunity to rebuild the customer base and generate much needed revenue. It was 2005 and before Inconvenient Truth had even been released. This was literally uncharted territory.

Lessons Learned from Plan-It Hardware

For all its successes, Plan-It Hardware could not pull its parent, California Hardware, back from the brink. After suffering through through the initial onslaught of Big Box retail in last decades of the 20th century, the housing bubble of recent years delivered the final blow. But there are many lessons to be learned from the experience.

1. Demand for green products is growing among dealers and their customers. This is truer today as more people seek to reduce their energy bills, enlarge their kitchen gardens, and live more simply.

2. Greener choices, marked as such on the shelf, along with other signage and informational material proved to be essential merchandising tools.

3. Proactive dealers did best. Those that educated staff and practiced tried and true merchandising tactics sold more goods and enjoyed better customer loyalty.

4. Dealers located near Whole Foods or other organic markets, and those with active green building programs in their communities were able to capitalize on natural synergies.

5. The myth that green products don't measure up is, in fact, a myth. There are those that sell and those that don't, some work well and some don't. The same is true for conventional products - there's a long list of cheaply made goods from foreign manufacturers that are worthless, and plenty of toxic chemical products that don't clean or remove rust or paint.

6. While top-down decisions are often required to get new initiatives off the ground, including sales and other key personnel early in the process to get buy-in, support and benefit of on-the-ground experience is essential. We didn't do that at first and it slowed internal adoption and support for the program.

7. Community groups and departments embraced, cheered and promoted the Green it Yourself dealers. The efforts to stock green building products and materials, as well as reduce toxic chemicals were clearly good for the health and welfare of the entire community, turning some dealers into local heroes.

And to find more of Jay's solutions, you might want to check out the WilliamVerde Blog for insights about the green products system that is the bedrock of modern, urban solutions.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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