Success Story: Cottin's Hardware & Rental

RockSolid Drives Merchandising Decisions and More

Tom Cottin of Cottin's Hardware & Rental
Tom Cottin of Cottin's Hardware & Rental

Linda Cottin and her husband, Tom, have been in the hardware business for more than 20 years. But, says Linda, what they do at their store, Cottin’s Hardware & Rental in Lawrence, Kansas, involves a whole lot more than just providing the standard hardware product mix in exchange for their customers’ hard-earned cash. 

“It may sound corny, but we’re in the business to help people. The hardware store gives us an ideal opportunity to make a difference in the community,” she explains. “We’re focused on taking care of our customers better than anyone else and doing so in a way that makes it fun and helps build relationships with the people we serve.” 

At Cottin’s, that translates into activities that go way beyond the usual hardware store model. 

Every Thursday, rain or shine, a farmer’s market sets up at the store offering fresh local produce, live music and special events. 

The store also hosts book signings by local authors and is home to a piano emblazoned with the words “Play me, I’m yours,” so customers can sit down and hammer out a few bars of their favorite tunes if the mood takes them. 

But don’t think for one minute that the Cottins’ very different approach to running a hardware store means they aren’t also totally committed to the business side of things. 

Lawrence may not be the largest market in the country but it’s fiercely competitive. Draw a two-mile circle around the Cottin’s own store and you’ll find it includes a Home Depot, a Walmart, a Sears and two Ace Hardware operations. Go out just another two miles and you’ll hit a second Walmart store. 

A market that crowded would be challenging for just about anyone, but it hasn’t stopped the Cottin’s team from keeping their store growing and profitable. 

And, says Linda, a key resource to help them do just that is the RockSolid system from ECi Software Solutions. 

The Cottins have been using RockSolid to run their business since 2007 and, says Linda, it has made them stronger and more productive on many different levels. 

“RockSolid was designed by people who grew up in the hardware business and that became very clear once we started looking at different systems,” Linda recalls. 

“The people at RockSolid understand our industry and what we need in a way that other system providers simply can’t match,” she contends. “And when we saw how easy and intuitive RockSolid is, making the decision to switch also became very easy.” 

Ask Linda Cottin what she likes most about RockSolid and she answers with an impressively long list of features and benefits. 

“RockSolid was very easy to implement and our people took to it very quickly,” she remembers. “Some of our staff are not exactly computer-friendly but it literally took less than two hours before they were comfortable with RockSolid and ringing up sales at the cash register.” 

RockSolid’s reporting capabilities also come in for high praise. “With RockSolid, it’s so easy to build your own reports on just about any aspect of the business,” Linda points out. 

Cottin’s is a True Value store and every week before she places her order, Linda runs a series of custom reports, that she developed herself, that provide a detailed view of just what’s happening with her inventory. Some of those reports include: 

“RockSolid has made managing our inventory so much easier,” she says. “You can analyze your inventory just about any way you like and with RockSolid, we have a level of confidence in our numbers that we simply did not have before.” 

RockSolid also has become a key resource on the financial management side of the business. “The information RockSolid generates is very detailed and reliable and allows us to track key metrics like inventory, cost of goods sold and accounts receivables on a daily basis,” Linda reports. 

And if all that wasn’t enough, RockSolid, says Linda, also shines on the customer service front. 

“One of our key concerns when we were looking for a system was how well it would perform at the checkout,” says Linda. “When a customer comes up to the register, RockSolid allows us to ring them up quickly and easily and send them on their way without hesitation and without difficulty.” 

And if there’s ever any situation where RockSolid doesn’t seem to have a ready-made solution, Linda says the company’s technical support team displays the same level of service that she aims to offer her own customers. 

“RockSolid has always been very responsive to any suggestions we might have on ways to enhance the system,” she says. 

Case in point: RockSolid’s support when Linda and her team recently undertook a comprehensive store remodel, an exercise that brought in all new fixtures and lighting, added 50% more merchandise and called for a totally new store layout involving more than 200 different planograms and thousands of new items! 

“We could not have handled the remodel as well as we did without RockSolid,” says Linda. “It made receiving all the new merchandise smooth and seamless, we used RockSolid to print out bin labels with the information we needed and RockSolid’s technical support team even wrote us a mini-program that allowed us to identify our go-forward inventory items for merchandising and re-ordering purposes.” 

In many ways, says Linda, it’s that responsiveness that has made RockSolid such a key business partner for Cottin’s over the past six years. “RockSolid is there for us when we need them,” she reports happily. “They know our industry and they don’t think we’re crazy when we tell them what we need. They listen and they respond. RockSolid helps us make operating and merchandising decisions that are better today than they’ve ever been!”