Specialty stores focus on customer service to survive - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Specialty stores focus on customer service to survive

Norman Schneider Norman Schneider

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - You've seen them around -- mom and pop stores that, for years, have stuck to selling a specific product, such as vacuum cleaners or fabric. How are they surviving in these tough economic times?

From shops still selling typewriters to those offering nothing but light bulbs, these small, decades-old operations say it all comes down to customer service.

Barry Schneider treats every customer like family. It's the way his father, Norman, has done it since opening his business in 1953.

"We've developed a lot of wonderful customers through the years which is important because they keep coming back," Norman Schneider, business owner, said.

His store, at the corner of South King Street and Pensacola Street, specializes in vacuum cleaners. Without any bells and whistles, it has survived for 55 years despite competition from big box retailers.

"What we do is we try to determine what the customer needs, so we can fulfill their needs, rather than just their purchasing a vacuum cleaner," Schneider said.

The 79-year-old says he tries to offer a variety of vacuum cleaners and accessories. He even has a model from 1911, which uses a pump instead of a motor.

The shop also does on-site repairs.

"We're a service agent for quite a few companies," Schneider said. "We found that that was something that could be very helpful to people."

But during tough economic times, it's a struggle for these types of specialty stores.

"Everyone in the business does the same," Schneider said. "They're cutting costs as much as possible to keep the business going."

As other businesses fold, Schneider remains optimistic.

"If you work hard at it and you service the customers correctly, you have a good chance at surviving," he said.

Schneider estimates his store has suffered a 30% drop in sales from last year.

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