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10 Impulse Items Customers Crave

Impulse items—those carefully arranged and displayed products found in retail locations from office supply stores to the corner grocery—are all about maximizing those final moments of a customer’s time in your store. Whether it’s necessities like snacks and drinks or holiday gifts at the last moment, this is an area no home improvement retailer can afford to leave unattended. Hardware Retailing looked into our Retailer Recommended feature as well as best practices to give retailers the 10 best ideas for impulse items.

1. Go Local
Independent retail customers are already locally minded. After all, they see the importance of your store to the community and want to help it succeed. What better way to raise awareness for local businesses than featuring items from them in your store. Seek out area craft artists or even farmers that come out for the local farmers markets. See if they have small, easily merchandised items that you feel could have an impact in your checkout area while also allowing them to advertise their business in your store.

2. Seasonal Items
The great part about seasonal items is that they can be rotated out with other products as each season turns, surprising customers with new products they’d forgotten they needed and keeping your store looking fresh throughout the year. Mark Armstead of Beisswenger’s Hardware and Power Equipment in New Brighton, Minnesota, has seen the benefit of the Better Gardens Beneficial Insect House, which attracts insects that will improve gardens and landscapes like mason bees, leafcutter bees, ladybugs and more. “The Beneficial Insect House is a great way to garden without requiring pesticides and chemicals. It attracts beneficial insects that keep the garden in bloom,” Armstead says.

3. Grilling Accessories
Make sure that your customers have everything they need to fire up the grill before they head home. These items can be featured both around your grilling departments as well as around checkouts to make sure customers have seen where they are. A unique item in the grilling department is The Great Scrape line of wooden grill cleaning tools. “There are many health risks that come from metal bristle grill scrapers. We found The Great Scrape when searching for an alternative, and our customers love it,” Steve Johnson of Mahoney’s Building Supply in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. The wood tools are designed to clean grills without leaving behind residue like some plastic or metal cleaners.

4. Food and Drink
Having snacks and drinks available for on-the-go customers is a simple task that can return great dividends. Customers looking for items in your store are often hurrying to find products for a specific project, and grabbing a quick bite might be just the energy boost they need. You can also steer into old-time nostalgia with your food options, building on the local hardware store’s place in many people’s memories. Feature old-fashioned sodas and candy like salt water taffy. Or, like Karen Thomas and Pahrump Rentals & Do it Best Hardware in Pahrump, Nevada, offer samples from a favorite product. “The Carolina Nut Company has the best nuts. We tried them at our co-op market and decided to bring them in. We offer samples at the checkout and people love them,” Thomas says. The nuts come in a wide variety of seasonings, including Sriracha Ranch and Dill Pickle.

5. Toys and Children’s Items
Small, low-cost items like bouncy balls, miniature cars or even—yes—fidget spinners are great ways to stack a few more items on purchases at your store. Items that can catch a customer’s eye include games like TENZI, which Jim White has seen find success at Boyne City Hardware in Boyne City, Michigan. “We’ve been selling TENZI for about two years now. You can show people how to play in seconds. It’s a fun and fast-paced dice game for any age,” White says. The simple and self-contained games lend themselves to quick purchases near the register.

6. Housewares
Small, unique items in the housewares department are great go-to items in the checkout aisle. A spoon, with a bendable neck designed to get the last bit of peanut butter out of the jar, is a great conversation piece and idea for houseware items in impulse areas. Another great conversation starter? Humorous household items like oven mitts from Blue Q that feature funny sayings like “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss.” Sharon Hughes of Intown Ace Hardware in Decatur, Georgia, says “when we introduced the humorous even mitts by Blue Q in our store, we sold through our first order almost immediately. They’re a lot of fun and get the job done!”

7. Candles
In some stores, candles can be an entire department or aisle, especially if the store offers a large gift area. However, even stores without gift departments can feature candles as impulse products. To set a candle collection apart, retailers need a unique angle, something that the Classic Votive Candles from Mixture provides. “Our sales rep suggested we give these votive candles a try, and they have done extremely well. They are a wonderful gift to give and the scents are so unique,” says Tricia Kerth of Steve’s Ace Home & Garden. The candles are hand poured and made from renewable soy wax, making it an eco-friendly option.

8. Cleaning Products
While some customers might be coming in specifically for cleaning products, for many customers this is a commonly forgotten necessity. Feature not only home products but also vehicle cleaners like interior wipes and glass cleaner. Pushing beyond just chemical cleaners and wipes, there are unique products that can draw a customer’s attention for a quick impulse buy. The Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag helps keep odors down with natural ingredients, something that is sure to draw eyes and comments. “The air purifying bag from Moso Natural is popular with our customers. It’s more powerful than baking soda for absorbing odors, and it can be reused,” says Diana Tyler of Kelloggs & Lawrence in Katonah, New York.

9. Add-On Items
Every DIY project needs certain backup items, and reminding customers of them on their way to the checkout aisles is a great way to both ensure they have everything they need and tack on another item to their sale. Use dump bins for items like duct tape, adhesives and other self-contained items that can be quickly snapped up and added to a cart.

10. Lighting and Power
It’s a new world concerning charging devices on the go. With items like smartphones and wireless ear buds a necessity for more and more consumers, powering those devices becomes a real issue. Options abound, from chargeable batteries that can then charge multiple items to solar powered batteries with speakers. Another solar powered impulse item is the Luci Outdoor 2.0 from MPOWERD, a collapsible light powered by solar energy. “Today’s customer is very conscientious. They want ecofriendly, reusable items, and Luci lights offer that. The solar-powered light is long-lasting and well-made,” says Diana Tyler of Kelloggs & Lawrence.

About Chad Husted

Chad is an assistant editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A Purdue University graduate, Chad has covered sports and news at the high school, college and Olympic levels as a sports writer, editor and designer for multiple newspapers. Prior to joining the NRHA, he was the sports editor for the Herald Journal in Monticello, Indiana, and a designer and copy editor for the AIM Media Indiana group in Columbus, Indiana. When not cultivating his beard, he enjoys backpacking, cooking, traveling and watching too much sports and Netflix.

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