Hal Donovan is the president of Hal’s Hardware, Inc. (HHI), a regional chain of 14 hardware stores located in Michigan, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania. HHI currently has a Web site that includes information about the company and some store information, such as locations and hours. Hal is thinking about expanding the HHI Web site to include online shopping. He believes that HHI customers might find the Web site to be a useful way to order items, see whether items are in stock at the nearest store, and comparison shop among different brands of a particular item. Hal is also hopeful that the Web site can reach customers who are not located near an HHI store. Many of the items sold at HHI are small and have high value-to-weight ratios, so they are good candidates for shipping using an overnight delivery service. Hal has decided that not all of HHI’s inventory items should be available for sale on the Web site. Items such as wheelbarrows and live plants would probably be among the types of products that should be excluded. Hal does want customers to be able to order these items on the Web and pick them up in the store, however.
HHI enjoys and excellent reputation as a chain of friendly neighborhood stores. The store managers are all active in their communities and the stores regularly sponsor youth sports teams and support local charities. When hired, salespeople go through a comprehensive training program that includes skill training in the areas of the store in which they will work (plumbing, electrical, power tools, tile and carpet, garden, and so on), and they are trained in customer service skills. As a result of HHI’s focus on service, most of the stores have become community gathering places.
On Saturday afternoons, the stores are full of woodworking hobbyists, gardeners, and customers planning weekend projects of various kinds. On weekday mornings, electricians, plumbers, remodelers, and construction contractors stop by for the free...
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