The Shad trucks are famous for their part in the company’s TV advertising and consumers welcome the shiny deliveries.
At more than 10,000 sq. ft., Hall’s location in Windham, Me. (top) dwarfs his original 500 sq. ft. location (bottom) in Portland, Me.
Before the current recession, those with money were spending money. With virtually unlimited credit extended to all, new housing, remodeling and competitive granite pricing reshaping the surfacing industry, many countertop shops were making top dollar profits. During that time, smart business owners reinvested their profits in machinery, expanded facilities, marketing efforts, etc., and one such company is ready to climb back to the top.
Shad’s Custom Countertops, located in Windham, Maine, is not your father’s countertop shop. In fact, though owner Shad Hall grew up in his father’s wholesale countertop shop, he started fabricating his own tops in 1997 with a small loan and 500 sq. ft. of space before growing his operation into a successful 10,000-sq.-ft. wholesale countertop shop with consumers actively requesting “Shad Tops” through an extensive dealer network.
Hall admits there are people who think he’s a second-generation owner of his father’s New Hampshire shop, but that was never the plan. Before his father Bill Hall retired, the two were direct competitors for a number of jobs.
“I couldn’t beat his prices through my dealers because my dad had taken his wholesale business and gone retail,” remembered Hall. “He gave me the knowledge I have about the industry, but it was some tough love when it came to growing up. He never just gave me money or anything else for that matter. In fact, he lent me a tool once and when I could afford my own, Dad took it right back. There were no handouts just, ‘You have to figure it out for yourself.’”
Figure it out is exactly what Hall did.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
Similar to his father, Hall is a wholesale countertop fabricator and has been since day one in 1997 when he opened up shop. Over time his business grew, due in large part to the uprising of the box store. In 2007, at the tail end of a prosperous era for the housing market, Shad’s Custom Countertops was approached by a local cable television representative about advertising.
Being wholesale and working solely through a large dealer network, Hall had never advertised his business, nor had he ever considered advertising.
“I was wholesale!” said Hall. “I didn’t need to advertise. Being wholesale, you only have 100 customers you need to reach; they’re the ones who reach the thousands of other people.”
Those were Hall’s arguments to the cable television representative. The rep then explained to Hall that he could receive a four-min. segment to tell his company’s story on TV for under $6,000.
“It was 2007, though, and we were making good money,” said Hall about finally deciding to advertise. “It was on everyday for three months, seven days a week and on two different stations. They also gave us a 30-second spot that ran at top hours.”
Hall had success and even a little bit of fame from being on television, and slowly more and more people were asking for Shad Tops. Then, Hall was approached by ABC, who told him that Shad’s needed to be on broadcast TV, not cable, to reach a larger market. Hall agreed and had an excellent response among his targeted demographic, females 25 to 54.
“If I could afford it, I’d be on TV at least two weeks a month all year long,” said Hall. “If I was retail and I sold direct to the customer, then I’d be on TV hands down. I would never own a retail establishment and not do TV I fought it for so long, ‘I’m wholesale; why do I need to advertise?’ But if you do a package for a month, you’re able to reach 1.6 million people. That’s a lot.”
Unfortunately prosperity in the housing market was fading and when things started to slow down in 2008. Hall was then forced to cut his outside sales rep and rely on the brand he built to take over for his marketing needs.
MAKING A NAME FOR YOURSELF
Hall’s marketing and branding efforts haven’t been limited to television. The company’s Web site boasts high traffic numbers immediately following an airing of the shop’s advertisement on television, and Hall has put forth immense efforts to brand the Shad logo, including developing the shop’s own material packaging, which not only protects the countertop but features the company’s logo prominently so it’s distinguishable as a Shad Top.
The shop’s packaging supplier, International Paper, let Hall print anything he wanted on his custom packaging for a one-time fee. The Shad logo was placed on the end of the packaging so when someone picks up material at Lowe’s and stacks it in a truck to drive home, everyone on the road sees “Shad.”
“The biggest thing is to get that logo everywhere,” said Hall, who hands out bumper stickers and has an ad in the bathroom stall of local bars through an agency.
“We also give out a lot of ‘Shad Gear,’” added Hall. “We have handed out close to 1,000 pieces of clothing in the last two years including yoga pants and workout tops for women to wear to the gym. Then when our commercial is on the television at the gym, others see the gear and want it as well.”
The company has also put its logo on golf balls and other golf merchandise to use for sponsoring golf tournaments. Other company sponsorships include Windham hockey, a snow-cross sled, a local stock car, a grass drag and asphalt sled as well as the racing sled for Hall’s 5-year-old son.
“People see our logos on TV and everywhere else,” said Hall. “We’re trying to create a buzz and I think it’s working because we’ve been fairly busy. The TV and buzz have been good for my employees, too, because they like wearing their Shad gear and having strangers ask if they work for that place on TV It’s funny, but at the same time it helps my employees to feel a part of something.”