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Gross Electric seeks growth on numerous fronts

Gross Electric of Toledo, Ohio has moved on many fronts lately, including four significant efforts to expand the distribution company’s image, its business, and the traffic into its 5,000 square-foot lighting showroom.

Acquisition

Gross recently acquired Otto C. Buehler & Son, a local decorate hardware business with a retail location. The company sells locks, door pulls, and cabinet hardware, among other things.

How does this fit with electrical distribution? “We were looking to expand into different areas, and this seemed a good fit with our showroom,” President Laurie Gross explained. “I called the owner one day, a few months ago—no, I didn’t know him before that. He was interested. It took a few months, but we concluded the deal.”

A few weeks into the combined operation, the Buehler & Son store has closed down. Instead, hardware offerings are on display in roughly 950 square-feet of that Gross Electric showroom.

“It’s only been a few weeks,” Gross reported, “but he’s seeing more retail business than he ever did before. And we’re ‘cross pollinating’ builder customers.”

Another showroom add

Also added to the Gross Electric showroom—but not acquired—is a tile operation. A local tile merchant has set up a display of backsplash tile, which occupies less than 200 square-feet of the Gross lighting showroom.

Combining the hardware and the tile offerings with Gross Electric’s lighting displays and other electrical products, the showroom is turning into what Laurie Gross had hoped—a one-stop shop for those who are building or remodeling.

“It’s great for retail customers who come to the lighting showroom,” she said. “And the builder customers are very happy now, because they can send their customers to a place where they can see more than just lighting.”

Obviously, getting builders to send customers to Gross Electric is a habit worth encouraging in these slow times. Laurie Gross said the company will be ready when the business ramps back up.

Web site revamp

Roughly six months ago, Gross Electric revised http://www.grosselectric.com”>its website. A visitor will now see a much more dramatic greeting on the home page, and the changes run throughout the site.

However, it wasn’t as easy as flipping a switch, Gross indicated—some thought went into the effort.

“We thought the old look was dated, and we needed something new,” she said. “But when we looked at what other showrooms had, it was the standard website. They looked the same, they were using a template. We didn’t want our website to look just like everyone else’s.

“So we worked with our ad agency. They helped us with design ideas. Since we unveiled the new look, we have had nothing but positive feedback about the pictures on the site,” Gross noted.

All that remains to be finished is “tweaking” on the back end, Gross said. “Right now the web site interfaces with our Eclipse system, but it isn’t attractive and is harder to shop than other sites. Our goal for this year is to fix that.”

Beyond the encouraging and positive feedback, she said, GrossElectric.com has seen an increase in visits from potential and existing customers.

Local combined sales effort

ToledoHomePros.com is a website Gross Electric established along with several other local companies.

Essentially, Gross said, the idea was to get Toledo residents to shop locally. In addition to the website, there are billboards, TV ads, and promotions running to get people to buy locally.

One of the concepts: A customer who takes his/her receipt from one of the participating companies to another can get a discount at the next stop.

How is this working? Going on two years, Laurie Gross said, it’s still not clear whether this seemingly worthwhile effort has yet struck a resonant chord with people in the Toledo area.

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