Focus Maui Nui participants have consistently cited the value of small businesses in our community as an important economic asset. One small business that has survived successfully in a changing marketplace is Hamai Appliance, in large part because it has adapted to the change. But a business also survives by doing what it does best. Doing both is Hamai Appliance’s not-so-well-kept secret to success.
“We’re fortunate that we’re still around, but I think one of the reasons is we continue to provide servicing for what we sell,” says President Clyde Hamai. “That’s what makes us different from our larger competitors; we do our own servicing.”
The last independent appliance/electronics businesses on Maui, Hamai recalled when all the appliance stores were locally owned businesses. Maui’s growth brought more customers, and it also brought the warehouse retailers.
Since his parents, Lester and Clara Hamai, founded the appliance business in September 1969, the business has adjusted its product line. It relies on mainstays Panasonic and GE, but there are new lines such as top-end brands like Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Thermador – and new merchandise such as Simmons mattresses.
Hamai joined a national buying group to counter the purchasing strength of the “big box” warehouse stores and set up its own website, www.hamai.appliance.com. “The customers have changed too,” observes Hamai. But Hamai Appliance customers know what they are getting: quality products, service and a staff of 18 people who know their products. “When you’re small, everybody has to do everything,” he says.
“Sure, the larger stores may sometimes undercut us on pricing, but we have a track record for servicing. At most of our competitors, if something breaks, the customer has to find someone else to fix it, and there are some brands for which there is no local servicing available. We even keep records of our customer’s major purchases in our system so they won’t have to worry about warranty information. Our customers recognize that.”