Johnson’s Ironmongers - Could it be the world's first "Hardware(shop) As A Service" shop?

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Today I saw the "Closing Down Sale" sign in the window of my beloved Johnson’s Ironmongers as I drove along Chatsworth Road in Chesterfield. It made me very sad - I can't imagine a Chesterfield without Johnson's.

I've been using Johnson's for over 10 years and I love it. Every time I need to buy something for a DIY project Johnsons's is my go-to hardware shop. If they don't have it, and only then, I'll try Screwfix or B&Q.

Anyway, I continued driving and my sadness quickly turned into problem-solving. I had an idea.

Declaration: I haven't spoken to anyone from Johnson's. This post is in no way endorsed by the owners and is simply my little attempt at saving a local business that is loved dearly by the residents of Chesterfield.

Could technology be the answer?

I'd just left Nonnas where I'd been for a coffee and to do some work from my laptop. Being a technology consultant my professional life is almost entirely online.

My background got me thinking:

"What a shame that this local business can't be helped by technology".

Then an idea popped into my head:

"I wonder if a local hardware shop could be saved with a new business model: Hardware(shop) As A Service"

Now, anyone that knows me will attest to the fact that I am full of ideas, some are good, some are pretty crazy but this one I think has merit.

Hardware(shop) As A Service or HAAS

It seems that pretty much everything we do these days follows a subscription model. Amazon Prime, Spotify, Netflix, iTunes, Google Drive extra storage to name but a few.

The "as a service" approach appears to be the save an industry overnight business model for pretty much everything. As yet though it's not ported from the web to the high street (I'm sure there are examples but for the purpose of this post I'm going to say this is the first!).

As the owners have said in this S40 Local article the internet has hit their profits hard and they find it a challenge to compete with the big guys.

So, like any good 'ideas person' I've come up with a way to beat the big guys, albeit on a local scale, by offering an innovation rather than rock bottom prices.

So how would it actually work?

The model works like many of the online "as a service" type businesses where customers pay a monthly subscription in return for a product or service. However, in this case, the service is a local hardware store that serves customers in person - the service Johnson's have been delivering now for 129 years.

HAAS Options

A subscribing customer simply heads into the hardware shop chooses what they want, and then pays using their subscription. Paying any balance necessary at the point of purchase.

Of course, there would need to be infrastructure in place to manage subscriptions and payments but that I can handle.

What are the benefits?

I suppose the benefits here for the customer are in being part of a local businesses success but also in having a vested interest in their supplier, and the service they provide.

The big sheds might be able to do low prices but can they do good old-fashioned customer service?

Other benefits I can see are around linking consumables to a subscription. So thinking about what a retail customer or a business might need regularly that could be provided on a monthly basis. Some ideas might be batteries, lightbulbs, detergents etc. Or even better seasonal items such as weedkiller for driveways or grass seed.

Also, surplus stock could be matched to surplus subscription revenue to create smart offers to subscribers.

The business model

I don't know how much revenue is required to keep a business like Johnson's afloat but imagine if the following were true.

  • 200 residents @ £10 pcm
  • 50 residents @ £25 pcm
  • 50 businesses @ £50 pcm

That would be a guaranteed monthly revenue of £5,750.

I think the numbers above, with the right marketing and a solid following of local residents and businesses, are easily achievable. Who knows double or treble this might even be possible if the "keep-it-local" movement can be tapped into.

I guess Johnson's might need to add new items to their shelves (and maybe take a few away) to cope with the new business model, but I imagine that's easily done.

Just a dream or could it actually work?

Like all things new this concept would take some work but I'd be up for building the infrastructure if the owners think it could work.

I'd love to get some feedback from Chesterfield residents and businesses via the following Google Form.

Also please feel free to comment below and share this post on social media!