Financial Data
Updated 26 Feb 2020

How a microwave turned Hirsch’s from nobody to a major player

Margaret Hirsch talks sales and how lateral thinking got their foot in the door to sustained growth.

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Margaret Hirsch is the chief operational executive for home appliance retailer Hirsch’s.

Her story is an inspirational one of growing up with nothing and working her way to the top in business through application, hard work and constantly striving for better.

But there’s a hidden story to the Hirsch’s brand’s success and growth, and it all starts with Margaret and a microwave.

Read on to learn how a bit of lateral thinking got the brand’s foot in the door to outstanding growth.

Tell us about the history of Hirsch’s

Hirsch’s has been around since 1979. My husband was an appliance repairman and we worked together to build a family-run business in a tiny showroom in Umhlanga Rocks, Durban.

We had R900 start-up capital and it was tough getting by as a retailer and repairer and retailer of second-hand appliances as we struggled to stand out from the crowd.

How did you change that?

Around the same time the microwave had been developed and we’d started stocking it, but we found turnover very slow.

I spoke to customers to try better understand why, and it turns out that although the microwave is now indispensable in the modern kitchen, no one knew how to use it back then and that was hampering sales.

I’m the kind of person who will see potential where others see obstacles, so instead of seeing the challenge of trying to sell an appliance that people couldn’t use, I saw an opportunity to teach them how to use it.

I took it upon myself to learn how to cook with a microwave and then started a microwave cookery class. This meant that customers interested in the microwave (but intimidated) were able to learn and then follow through with a sale.

I believe it’s what took us from a nobody to a major player in the appliance retail business.

Our turnover reached R1 billion in 2012. Why? Because we established ourselves as a brand that isn’t just in it for the sale, we’re a brand that is trustworthy and there to benefit the consumer.

We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the customer experience, train our staff well to identify a customer’s appliance needs and budget and because of that we’re growing at a rate of one store every two years.

Top tip:If you’re experiencing difficulty selling, step back and look at the bigger picture. If your product is revolutionary, have you considered that the market simply doesn’t know how to use it to experience its benefits?

Suppliers are integral in the success of a business, how do you manage that relationship?

Suppliers really can make or break a business. You rely on them to get you the best products at the best prices and in a timely manner.

These are the perks you can then pass on to your customers. As such, I pay a lot of attention to my relationships with suppliers. I always meet with them after hours and outside of the store.

I’ll typically finish my day at 18:00 and then meet with suppliers from 20:00 to 22:00. This allows for focused, undivided attention on them and we can talk shop.

We’re not distracted by what’s happening on the floor of a store, and my staff aren’t distracted by our presence so they can focus on tending to customers.


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