Hardware Retailing

FEB 2017

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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T here are a lot of characteristics one might associate with hardware retailers. As a group, hardware retailers might be called honest, affable, reliable, polite, modest or independent. In most cases, these would all be apt descriptions. Truth be told, however, there are a couple of words you don't typically hear about your friendly, neighborhood tool peddler—terms like cool, hip and trendy come to mind. Don't get mad at me. Society and pop culture are working against you here. Although you may have watched "Happy Days" and thought Mr. Cunningham was the cool one, the rest of the country was giving their thumbs-up to the Fonz. And you're not alone in this uncool category. It's not exactly like trade magazine publishers are hanging out in the club with Beyoncé and the Kardashians. (On an even more personal cool, hip, trendy note, please understand that I will probably have to explain this Fonz reference to my editors who were born 10 years after "Happy Days" was cancelled.) Right now, you might be thinking, "Dan, we didn't come here to have you tell us how uncool, not trendy and anti-hip we are. We have our kids to do that. What's your point?" My point is this: While you might not consider yourself the cool kid on the block, your customers are looking to you for cool, hip and trendy ideas. They want to be able to find the latest products, reproduce the coolest trends and make sure their living spaces are as hip as small-batch, non-GMO, artisanal kombucha (ask your kids). I've been to a lot of hardware stores—even really profitable ones—that are about as exciting as a mayonnaise sandwich on white bread. But I have also been to my share of pretty cool stores. So what's the difference? First, the cool stores are usually the ones where the owners engage their entire staff on the products and services they offer. These owners understand that their world view is limited, so they rely on their teams to provide insight into what is hip. Next, the cooler stores tend to be the ones where the management team actively looks at the trends impacting their consumers. They read magazines, go to shows beyond just their own wholesale markets and engage in social media sites that focus on lifestyles (think Pinterest). They use this research to inform their decisions about what products they bring in and how they present those products to their customers. Lastly, the owners of cool stores look across generations when promoting their operations. There's nothing wrong with hosting the same kind of promotion your store did in 1987 if it still works, but you also have to focus on promotions that will appeal to the diverse demographic in your market. You have to consider how you can reach beyond the suburban DIYer to capture the 20-somethings moving into their first apartments or the young families looking to live more naturally. These are the customers who can take a business from average to extraordinary. And while I can't promise that a polyester vest and name tag will replace a black leather jacket as the new symbol of cool, I can tell that a few steps in the right direction can create a buzz for your business and help set your store apart from your hardly hip competitors. Dan M. Tratensek, Publisher dant@nrha.org What is Hip? I Can Tell You What's Not Taking Care of Business " Cooler stores tend to be the ones where the management team actively looks at the trends impacting their consumers. " HARDWARE RETAILING | February 2017 12

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