Finding unique ways to merchandise key categories can help you call out certain products to your customers while creating a distinctive atmosphere for your store. One of the best ways to get ideas for your own store is to look at what others are doing.
Earlier in March, Hardware Retailing editors spent a day visiting hardware stores in the Atlanta area to see how those retailers are setting themselves apart from their competitors. Here are some highlights from those visits that will hopefully inspire you in your store’s merchandising.
Huge Selection Creates a Destination
Intown Ace Hardware in Decatur, Georgia, earned the title of one of Ace’s “Coolest Hardware Stores.” It’s not hard to figure out why, either. When customers drive up, they get the idea that they’re not visiting an ordinary hardware store—they soon spot the expansive lawn and garden department. Through a series of sheds and outdoor displays, customers can not only find a large selection of plants, they can also find a nearly overwhelming variety of outdoor pots and planters, lawn and garden decor, and patio furniture. For Intown Ace, it doesn’t matter that they’re on Home Depot’s home turf (the chain is headquartered in Atlanta); they’ve made themselves into a lawn and garden destination.
Color Grabs Attention
Inside Intown Ace Hardware, customers will likely stop again to browse through a category they didn’t expect to shop: housewares. In the middle of the salesfloor is a large housewares and home decor department filled with impulse items. Displays along the aisle are continually changing, and there’s always an unusual item, such as bamboo underwear, or a display full of color, such as a stack of brightly painted teapots, to catch customers’ attention and draw them deeper into the department.
Sell Complete Lines
With big-box home improvement stores, along with grocery stores and discount merchants all stocking housewares, competing in that category can be tough. Intown Ace Hardware competes by going deep where others only dabble. Where others may only carry the best-selling items from a vendor, Intown has the complete line available. When customers find you carry the complete variety available from their favorite brand, you’ll be their go-to place for those items.
Create an Atmosphere
There’s no wasted space at Intown Ace Hardware. Owner Dave Jones has a collection of more than 200 baseball bats, some of them collector’s items. You can see many of them displayed around the store, along with other memorabilia. The decor helps create an energized atmosphere that gets customers excited as soon as they walk in the door.
Make a Showcase
If it’s a horizontal surface, it can be a shelf, so be creative when finding ways to display products. One of the unique merchandisers at Intown Ace Hardware is an empty bourbon barrel that holds some of the store’s many varieties of barbecue sauce. Using a merchandiser such as the barrel to showcase just a few items can give the customer the impression they’re looking at a premium brand or limited edition.
Create a Work Space
At Vickery Do it Best Hardware in Smyrna, Georgia, one of Atlanta’s northwestern suburbs, staff knows customers sometimes have to talk through their home improvement problem while they’re standing in the aisle. That’s why they’ve cleared the top of the fasteners display and created a wooden counter with space to work and make sure they have exactly what they need before they head out the door.
Near the front of Vickery Hardware, there’s a section of hand-made, local home decor items. A pallet painted white and turned on its end serves as a unique merchandiser. Elsewhere, an antique cabinet is used as an endcap for displaying candles. To complete the area, a chalkboard works as a sign that can be easily changed. Finding ways to repurpose furniture or pallets makes for an economical merchandiser, and reflects the Pinterest-type projects popular with consumers today.
Bonus: Connect with the Community
Remember that as an independent retailer, it’s important to take time to give back to the community. One of the ways Vickery Hardware does that is with its Little Free Library on the front of the store. Staff at Vickery built the library, which is part of a nationwide effort to build community by having books available to exchange, all for free.