Located midway between Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky, Carrollton Office Supply places a high priority on modern customer communications methods, using email and Facebook regularly. At the same time, the dealership evokes memories of a simpler time in our industry, with a retail operation that generates around 30 percent of sales.
Most office supplies are delivered daily to businesses within an approximate 50-mile radius of Carrollton. It’s about a 45-minute drive either way to metro area shopping malls and the only local competition for office supply sales is Walmart. “There’s not really anything else between here and Cincinnati or here and Louisville,” says owner Charlotte Wallace. People can drive, she says, but many chose to make purchases online.
Since she purchased the operation about five years ago, Wallace has been faced with the challenge of owning and running a business. “We’re in a small town of about 10,000 people,” she says. “We have office supplies, a bible bookstore and a retail store front.” In Charlotte’s time in charge of the dealership, both walk-in traffic and walk-in sales have quadrupled.
Helping to generate more local traffic is the effort Charlotte puts into adding retail product lines. The store sells Vera Bradley, Simply Southern T-shirts and apparel, Girly Girl clothing and Candleberry Candles made in Kentucky. “We sell Kentucky Proud items,” says Wallace of the statewide initiative to promote regional products. “The state of Kentucky promotes these items, in an effort to get people to shop locally.”
Since the dealership started in business more than 30 years ago, a bible bookstore has been part of the offering, nestled in one of the smaller retail aisles and offering a selection of bibles, books, music and related gifts. Sales tend to be seasonal with a big spike in December when bibles are given as gifts.
Downtown Carrollton has witnessed the transformation brought about when Walmart moves into an area. There aren’t many stores left downtown; those that remain have banded together to promote the benefits of local shopping. “We have this older, rural setting with empty buildings and a bunch of us owners would love to see more people shopping local,” adds Wallace.
To provide a boost for downtown business, Carrollton Office Supply has produced Facebook posts under the heading of Carrollton Connections. “We show a short video to publicize what is in specific stores,” says Wallace. “We hope that will intrigue people enough to get them to come downtown and shop.”
Finding the next item to drive retail sales at Carrollton is close to a full-time activity, but somehow time also is made available to work on the growing sign business. Up until a few years ago there had been a sign shop in town. When Wallace started to hear questions about where to get signs printed, she knew what to do.
Carrollton Office Supply introduced sign-making capabilities a little over a year ago. The dealership already offered printing services so moving into sign work wasn’t a big stretch. Offerings include banners, yard signs, posters and window decals; design services are also available. “It involves a lot of customization,” says Wallace. “Customers can view options on our website and Facebook page, but then they need to call us or come in.”
Even with what remains a strong retail presence, Wallace is fully aware that future sales of office supplies and related products are going to be primarily online. She relates how her dealership is the only retail operation that her wholesale rep has. “That’s an eye opener,” she says. Most office supply sales today take place online as it cuts out a lot of costs. “Online is going to be the norm because in most offices people can’t go out and shop, so they have to order online.”
Products carried: office supplies, office furniture, breakroom supplies, janitorial and sanitation products, school supplies—over 80,000 products available
Year founded: 1984
Number of employees: 6
url: www.carrolltonos.com, www.732heresyoursign.com
% of total sales generated online: 75%