Equipment, sales discoveries from 1941

February 12, 2016 By    

Suburban Propane’s founder focuses on profit

The story of Suburban Propane founder and LP Gas Hall of Famer Mark Anton – and the retailer’s rise to successfully serving customers – is told in the 1941 pages of the magazine.

As it goes, Anton was building a new house in 1928 and soon discovered that gas mains did not extend to his New Jersey property. With his wife, Adele, set on cooking only with gas, Anton explored using another type of gas – bottled.

“And before his new home was completed, he had established Suburban Gas Co. – with himself as Customer No. 1,” Bert Dale writes in the February article.
More than a decade later, Dale interviews Anton about Suburban’s business practices, which are clearly defined by the article’s headline, “Cut out profitless service.”

In it, Anton details Suburban’s solutions in three parts: limitation of territory, increase of consumption and the elimination of too-small users.

Additional bulk plants and distribution stations in strategic locations helped Suburban add efficiency to its delivery business.

The propane business philosophy that “more appliances and increased load go hand in hand” was also noted in the article.

Suburban’s salesmen used three trailers full of appliances to help sell customers on propane.

Self-service in Maine

Utilities Distributors Inc. of Portland, Maine, discovered the benefits of offering self-service on 20-pound propane cylinders at its dealers’ businesses.

With self-service or cash-and-carry service, the dealer incurs no expense for deliveries and makes no investment in equipment, an article states, so even a small volume from each customer would bring a profit to the company.

Self-service found its place in camps, summer cottages, homes occupied part of the time, roadside stands, and church and school kitchens.

A make-it-simple policy

Keep your sales presentation simple. That’s what Modern Gas Sales and Service’s Irving Roy believed when it came to selling new customers on propane and appliances.

“One price … no extras!” he says in an August article about the New Jersey company’s philosophy.

A dealer who adds fees to the initial price of an appliance is damaging that sale and the public’s trust in LP gas dealers, Roy says.

“I’ve found that more sales are closed quickly, and less people want to ‘think it over awhile,’ when I make my presentation simple – with just one price, including everything,” he says.

Roy also kept the outside of his showroom building simple. Two arrows on the side point to two tanks and a hood mounted against the wall. A prospect can learn quickly how an LP gas installation will look.

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