Creative merchandising pays

Mid-Atlantic Matco dealer applies sales and marketing skills honed in retail management.


Kevin Vernon and his wife, Aleks, hope their son, Roman, may some day follow in dad's footsteps. Spend a day with Kevin Vernon, a Matco Tools dealer in greater Baltimore, and it’s hard to imagine anyone better suited to the mobile tool distribution business. The chipper, 29-year-old Vernon brought experience in retail sales and management which he was looking to put to use in his own...


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Spend a day with Kevin Vernon, a Matco Tools dealer in greater Baltimore, and it’s hard to imagine anyone better suited to the mobile tool distribution business. The chipper, 29-year-old Vernon brought experience in retail sales and management which he was looking to put to use in his own business. When he came across mobile tool sales two years ago, his sales, management and marketing background got him off to a fast start and he is now on track to exceed goals and launch a second truck.

In fact, Vernon, based in Stevensville, Md., has already launched a second truck of sorts. As a creative student of sales and merchandising, he has established a trailer dedicated to displaying toolboxes in addition to his regular tool truck. Once every few weeks, he hitches this trailer to a pickup truck and drives the trailer to his stops, giving customers a break from the usual routine with a chance to mainly see toolboxes. The trailer has already netted Vernon six toolbox sales in a two-month period.

Vernon isn’t following anyone else’s playbook in mobile tool sales.

He re-merchandises his 18' truck bi-weekly, makes aggressive use of Matco Tools’ specials, has a DVD player running promotional videos in the truck, and specially prepares treats for his customers, including his signature “cake pops.”

Customers look forward to Vernon’s visit since they never know what to expect on his truck except for his big, genuine smile.

How did such a “natural” come to mobile tool sales?

The son of a career military man, Vernon wanted to own his own business from an early age. The seeds for a career in tool sales were planted in high school when he started working part-time at Sears in the Baltimore area. “My goal was to have my own ‘something,’” Vernon says.

After working his way into store management at Sears, Vernon eventually took a sales job for Bosch Home Appliances. He excelled at sales, and was promoted to a sales management position responsible for seven states.

In 2009, after three years with Bosch Home Appliances, Vernon returned to store management at Sears. He organized sidewalk sales, kid's coloring contests, in-store demonstrations, in-store TV entertainment and football parties for husbands. “I really like sales; I’ve done it all my life,” he says.

In search of new opportunity

Vernon liked seeing the immediate results of his sales efforts, but he wasn’t completely satisfied with his management role. There was a lot of travel involved and he didn’t feel completely at home in a big corporation. He was married with a young son and living in a house he bought from his parents.

Vernon began looking for opportunities to own his own business. One day, he got a call from Matco Tools after posting his resume on Career Builder. Matco Tools expected to have an opening for a mobile tool distributor in the greater Baltimore area due to a retirement. Vernon rode with three tool trucks and realized that despite his lack of knowledge about professional tools, he could sell them. “If you can sell a (clothes) washer, you can certainly sell a screwdriver,” he says.

The Matco Tools district manager helped him write a business plan using an Excel spreadsheet. They came up with a break-even scenario which included both business costs and personal living costs.

Vernon leased a 2008 truck with 40,000 miles on it. He took a five-year lease through a leasing company. He financed $54,000 worth of starting inventory through Matco Tools and used $5,000 of his own money. He took out a 10-year loan to pay for the inventory.

He and his wife, Aleks, attended an 11-day training program at Matco Tools headquarters in Stow, OH. The district manager then helped him merchandise the truck.

Making a good first impression

Cognizant of the importance of making a good first impression with customers, Vernon first visited his stops in his pickup truck to introduce himself and pass out Matco Tools catalogs before showing up in his tool truck. “It got me in front of the guys just to say 'hello' before I was out there on the tool truck,” he says.

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