Liquidator at Swan’s Supply says closing store hard on everybody

NORWAY – All sales were final.

There was no credit, no exchanges, no refunds.

Swan Supply Inc. was liquidated Thursday.

There was little lumber left in the storage barn.

“We used to have deliveries every day,” owner Kevin Swan said.

The wire bins and shelves in the supply store, once brimming with products, were empty.

The carpet stain remover, which had been originally priced at $8.99, was now $1.70.

It was nearly time to turn out the lights for good at the Route 26store that had served Oxford Hills for 39 years.

Saturday will be the last day.

Then nine people will be out of work and the state can begin missing the taxes on more than $2 million in sales the store provided last year.

Robert Shannon, a consultant from Wingate Sales Solutions in Wichita, Kan., was in charge of the liquidation. He has been in Norway for nearly nine weeks planning and mapping out the liquidation.

Shannon is 59, married and from Arkansas. His wife, Donna, teaches first grade back home in Pine Bluff and came to Maine to help him when school ended about three weeks ago.

Shannon has no crew, just Donna.

“She’s my unofficial employee,” he said.

Robert Shannon has five years experience in the liquidation business and has been involved in the lumber and hardware business since he was 12 years old. He and his dad owned a hardware store for 29 years, he said.

The store was in Clinton, population 2,900, so Shannon knows about small businesses and small towns.

“The whole experience of going into each small store was different,” Shannon said. “Different smells, different atmospheres, different feelings and there was a mix of personalities.”

Shannon closes four to five stores a year, mostly lumber and hardware, his specialty. He is one of 38 consultants employed by Wingate.

“We have a very difficult job,” Shannon said. “Anytime you close a store it’s hard. It’s very difficult for everybody, the employees, the longtime customers and the owners.”

He said he loves his job, and that there is a pain to a certain extent.

“One of my problems is that I get too emotionally involved in a closing. Because I had to close my business I have empathy, sympathy,” he said.

“Hardware is not a glamorous business. The margins are not that big,” Shannon said. “People don’t shop in hardware stores except when they need to. Most of the time people go there when they have a problem and the locally owned store can solve that problem.”

He said if you needed a certain part you can go to a local store, where they will either have it or be able to order it for you.

Shannon said many big box stores don’t carry all parts and don’t do special orders.

He said advertising works and smaller stores just cannot keep up with the bigger ones in that regard.

Shannon said people also have the misconception that if one item is cheaper at a box store, everything will be.

“If you give me a list of 25 items and I buy them at a box store and locally owned store, I’d be willing to bet that there is not a 5 percent difference between them,” he said.

Shannon said small businesses can investigate buying groups to keep prices down and compete with box stores and with some planning smaller stores can do just as good as larger ones.

“There are benefits to the box store,” he said. “But what do you give up is the question.”

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