Hardware stores sell nuts and bolts. In fact they sell many different types of nuts and bolts. Each one for a specific job.
There are parallels with what you may manufacture and sell with hardware stores. If you make ice-cream, then you stock more than just vanilla and chocolate. Chances are that you have a range of flavours available. As a retailer, your job will include identifying what other flavours the market wants. You might personally love chicken liver and paprika as an ice cream flavour profile, but, and I am going to go out on a limb here, I think you would sell exactly zero units.
What we are trying to achieve here is to provide product or product variants that satisfy your market purchasing patterns. You need to do this because chances are that 80% of your business depends on this. Complementary product offerings are a standard stock selection process for retailers, so if you sell icecream, offer milkshakes; if you sell meat, include a selection of marinades; if you sell real-estate offer conveyancing (or at least cross promote with a conveyancing business.
But what if your customers have special requirements. Maybe it’s not about a flavour profile or colour, but how a product is packaged or delivered. Are you able to accommodate these customer special requirements? Do you want to? How do you capture this information and how do your sales team manage these requests? Do they have the skill set, direction, or authority to do this?
I think that it is a very arrogant retailer that will not, at least, try to accommodate a special request. Even if this as simple as contacting their product manufacturer to see if it can be accommodated.
There can be, on the surface, exceptions. The minimal fixed Apple product range is one that always rears its head when I talk about this. Sure, if your sales was something akin to the GDP of a small country then there may be an element of arrogance in the product line up; defenders will, of course, counter with the argument that there is little or no requirement to customise a product if the market research has indicated that this is what consumers want, and the sales figures back this up. For those that cannot live with the current offerings, then alternatives are available. Apple is happy for these consumers to move on initially, knowing that there is a better than average chance that they will become one of the Apple disciples through peer pressure alone in the future.
Unfortunately, most of us do not have the sales and branding success that Apple enjoys, so we need to be a little bit more flexible when trying to accommodate users. It will become a commercial proposition and you will need to resolve the following questions:
What sales will I lose as a result of not accommodating this special request?
Are there social advantages to accommodating this request?
Is the request actually a really good idea that we hadn’t thought of?
Are there marketing opportunities that can be leveraged on this request?
Special needs and product modifications might be pandering to an individual client requirement, but it could also be seen as a crowd sourcing opportunity that may result in product change of direction or a new product line. Rather than dismiss these sorts of requests or avoid them for fear of creating a headache that you may need to service in the future, embrace them and look beyond the requirement to see if there may be social and general marketing opportunities or even product range adjustments that could be implemented into your mainstream operations. As the business owner put in place systems where your staff have the appropriate tools to appropriately capture and manage these requests.