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We are in Milan, in Via Solari, and here we meet Domenico Di Marando, owner of Diemme Ferramenta. We want to get a closer look at a bustling business located in the beating heart of the city.
We are curious to learn about what the company does and what its story is. What can you tell us about it?
I opened the store in 2015, but I was by no means a newcomer. I have actually worked in the sector for about 24 years, with another hardware and paint shop, also in Milan. For 4 years I have managed this shop independently. Thanks to my in-depth experience, I have been able to launch this new business enthusiastically and efficiently. Today I work in a space of 60 square metres. I chose this area primarily because there were no similar shops.
What items, services and products do you offer?
We handle retail sales, offering a vast range of merchandise, to meet all the needs of our potential customers. We supply paints, key cutting service, housewares, hardware, and electrical and plumbing material. Moreover, I am particularly keen to offer a range of services, dedicated to the home, offices and businesses. These include installation, renovation and repairs.
Essential products, for use in today’s world
What can say about your revenue trend since 2015 to today?
I would say that revenues have been rather stable since our opening until today. Apart from the first year of settling in, the following years have been substantially balanced, with a slight growth trend in the long term.
How and through what channels do you buy?
I buy exclusively from wholesalers, clearly because of order quantities. It is not worth my while to go and negotiate directly with manufacturers.
As far as sales are concerned, do you have key products and bestsellers?
There are no articles that sell better than others in particular. I must say that some products are seasonal – for example we sell very little paint in the winter. Other than that, I have tried to put my experience to best use to devise an array of merchandise, from lighting to tools, that can be used for small, everyday DIY projects: products essential for use in one’s home today. The idea is to propose materials that are used on a daily basis, at the same time maintaining a broad, diversified array of items. I am not interested in becoming super specialised in any one sector.
I imagine that this decision has had a decisive impact on the type of customers who come to your shop…
We have all kinds of customers. Individuals, fitters, companies, professionals and housewives walk through our door. Naturally the majority of our customers are individuals. This is natural because of our location: because the shop is on the street it is easier for individuals to come in.
Large retailers/superstores? Saving is not so easy
A genuine image of what is the true reference for the neighbourhood. How do you compare to large retailers? Are you impacted by their centres?
Large retail stores are without doubt a presence that for many years has impacted and dynamically changed the sector. However, given the location of our shop, we have never really been greatly impacted. What is more, we offer a specialised and bespoke service; a service that listen to and fully understands the customer. Solving an individual’s needs is a key feature of the shop, of a neighbourhood store. People who work in large shopping centres are not sufficiently trained to provide specialist advice: they work on quantities, volumes, and not on quality. On the other hand, we must have a sensitivity for solving many problems, know how to guide the customers towards the solution to their problem: this is the key advantage that helps the shop survive and prosper. As far as I have been able to see, large retail stores only have an advantage in terms of display area: my 60 square metres can never compete with their 6,000 square metres. However, the argument about savings remains misleading.
What is your opinion on e-commerce? Is it a channel that interests you?
I am absolutely against e-commerce. A very important and distinctive feature of the small shop is to maintain human and direct contact with the customer. It is this, substantially, that sets us apart from large shopping centres. We have to preserve this special feature. For me, it is important to deal directly with my customers. Individuals generally need a limited number of items, they do not handle large quantities; moreover, once they have bought a product online, I always wonder if they are able to use it correctly. So it is essential not only to get a product, but more than anything, to get it in addition to the specific technical knowledge that only a shop like mine can offer. In addition to this, we also handle home deliver and installation. The biggest satisfaction for me is when customers come into the shop, not to buy anything, but to say hello. This means that something more has happened than a mere purchase.
Quality and service, nothing more you need
A small but rich shop, with a varied and diversified offer: have you also applied this logic to the layout of products?
The layout of products in the shop exclusively follows my logic. The main concept is the sale of all products made available to the customer from the shelf. The old concept of hardware only being sold from behind the counter does not exist here.
Do you do special promotions?
No, we have never had nor felt the need to do special promotions, neither daily, nor through flyers. I have never even needed to go below cost or give discounts.
Do you focus more on price or product quality?
Without a doubt: I only look for quality. My goal is to sell a product without any future complaints from my customers. Every customer needs to be satisfied immediately, sometimes even coming up against the issue of a price that does not exactly meet his expectations. What is important is to carefully explain to the customer what that higher cost means in terms of quality. I can proudly say: in 4 years I have not had a single complaint. This for me has special value.