Trying to improve hardware retail sales using advertising and public relations before you revise your overall marketing plan can lead to short-term sales that don’t provide long-term stability. Segmenting your market by the type of people who use hardware, and providing different benefits to these different customers, can help boost your bottom line. Showing your customers how to use the hardware products you sell can be another way to increase purchases as you increase customer confidence.
Segment Your Audience
Three customer segments for hardware stores include contractors, serious DIY enthusiasts and casual purchasers of hammers, duct tape and paint. Think of the benefits each wants and create programs to satisfy their needs. Survey each group, asking them to list the top 10 benefits they look for in a hardware store. Ask them what they like most and least about your business, and to provide feedback about your competitors. Meet with your staff and your hardware manufacturer sales resp to discuss the main products each group buys and the benefits they seek.
Contractors don’t need advice on how to use hardware. Instead, offer them a contractor discount or discount on orders over a certain dollar amount. Home Depot, Lowe's and other large hardware retailers have offered special contractor incentives for years. Offer special-order service or pre-ordering without pre-payment to help contractors get what they need quicker. Put up a contractor services board so businesses and homeowners can find referrals. Offer to let large, repeat commercial buyers with expertise in a specific area conduct free homeowner workshops.
Service DIY Customers
DIY enthusiasts have some experience with home-improvement projects but might not be up to speed on the latest products or building and repair techniques. Offer added value to this market segment with an instructional newsletter, new-product demonstrations and ideas for popular DIY projects a non-pro can tackle successfully. Be sure to stress your customer service over an online retailer, including on-the-spot replacements of defective merchandise with no shipping time or costs. Show DIY customers the high-end tools contractors use and explain the difference between these items and entry-level hardware items. Consider adding a rental program to let DIY customers try products before they buy them.
Give Homeowners Personal Help
Homeowners often need advice on how to choose the best hardware products and tips for using them. Depending on your market, homeowners might have several options for buying painting or yard equipment. They are more likely to come to you if you can help them buy the exact equipment they need and give them tips for using it. You might reduce your labor costs by hiring minimum-wage floor and counter people with no home improvement experience, but you lose the opportunity to add a significant benefit to your hardware store. Have at least one hardware and home-improvement expert in your store at all times to help novice customers. A monthly seminar on a different aspect of home repair and maintenance can spur more sales as customers get new ideas and gain more confidence in their ability to handle projects themselves. During a grand opening for one of its new stores, Busy Beaver Building Centers offered multiple, 20-minute programs to provide shoppers quick tips on a variety of topics.
Hardware Retailing magazine suggests taking advantage of consumers' growing eco-friendly purchasing habits. Consider adding and highlighting products such as low-flow toilets and shower heads. Use signage to explain the difference between electric and gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers. Research you local utility companies to see if they have any programs, such as rebates, for customers who buy energy efficient water heaters, windows and appliances.
Expand Your Product Lines
Books are one of the biggest selling online categories, according to the Walker Sands 2014 online retail survey. If you don’t sell them, add titles that complement your departments, especially how-to and DIY books. Put them next to related products and at your counters to spur impulse sales. If you sell home and garden hardware, consider adding plants, seeds, fertilizer, outdoor seating, lighting, grills and other items homeowners are likely to buy together. Try upselling by bundling a hardware item with an item used in the room or area it's for. For example, bundle shower curtains with shower heads. Combine a bug-killing tiki torch with deck sealant.
Work With Your Suppliers
Talk to your suppliers about support they can offer you. This can include in-store displays, co-op advertising programs, an in-store seminar or coupons or rebates. Company sales reps are often product experts can provide a short seminar, Q&A or product demonstrations. You might have a "meet the expert" day to attract customers of big-ticket items such as power tools or plumbing items. Company sales reps can act as the experts and answer questions about products and their use. Don’t assume sales reps will tell you what they can offer you -- some reps have a limited promotional budget, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Make sure you have all of the sales materials and spec sheets that go with the products you sell so that you are familiar with them and can help answer customer questions.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.