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10 Things Hardware Retailers Can Learn From Dollar Stores

The retail industry is facing challenges, with large chain stores declaring bankruptcy or shopping malls shrinking. Amid all these changes and shifting consumer preferences, one type of retail outlet continues to grow and thrive—dollar store chains.

Although independent hardware and home improvement retailers can’t list all their products at a dollar or less, there are several things that help boost sales at these discount retailers. Read this list for inspiration from these chains and consider implementing elements from this list where it makes sense.

1. A smaller store is easier to navigate and shop.
Most dollar, discount stores are about 7,000 square feet or less. This condensed sales floor makes it easier for shoppers to walk around the store and find exactly what they are looking for and need.
Independent retailers often have a smaller store footprint as well. However, for retailers with more sales floor to work with, consider ways to make the floor plan easy to navigate to imitate the successful dollar store.

2. Seasonal decor draws repeat customers.
One type of customer that makes their way to the local dollar store throughout the year is the seasonal shopper. They are on the hunt for cute decorative items that can be used to liven up the home for the various holidays and seasons of the year. From patriot pieces for the Fourth of July to Christmas decor in the winter, people enjoy finding new, discounted items that liven up their home or office spaces. If seasonal, holiday themed decor does not have a place in your store, consider getting enough to attract impulse shoppers and locate it near the checkout counter or on a stack-out display. Since these items often are more eye-catching out of the box, set up these goods and offer inspiration for customers to get ready to celebrate the season.

3. Gift bags and cards are always available.
Decorating for the holidays is something many dollar store enthusiasts appreciate, but buying the gift wrap, bags and cards go hand-in-hand for these shoppers. Having all of these items in one place makes it easy to package items for friends and family without having to stop at another shop. Several dollar stores even sell helium balloons. If you don’t already, consider selling greeting cards, gift bags and other items that can help shoppers pull together a complete gift for a friend or family member, no matter the time of year.

4. Cleaning supplies are a repeat buy.
One of the top-selling categories at the dollar store is consumable items like cleaning supplies. While these products carry a significant mark up in different shopping spots, dollar stores succeed in giving consumers what they need to keep a neat and tidy home on a budget. Both brand name and generic products are stocked on the shelves, but they provide shoppers with the chance to stock up on items they need without breaking the bank. Retailers who don’t carry cleaning supplies yet should consider at least devoting some shelf space to these goods. Balance name brand items with generic options for a variety of price points. This is a category that will bring repeat customers or will appeal as an impulse purchase for retailers visiting the hardware store who remember that they ran out of dish detergent.

5. Shoppers share ideas and project inspiration online.
For many dollar store shoppers, there is a growing trend of finding fun and unique DIY projects that can be made with materials found inside these discount stores. Consumers enjoy finding different items at a discount, bringing them together and creating something fun or creative. Visit websites like Pinterest or online blogs to get inspiration from dollar store enthusiasts who have created everything from decorative centerpieces to light fixtures and more. Independent home improvement retailers also have a world of creative customers just a click away. Consider utilizing social platforms or showcasing various project ideas in your store to inspire and encourage shoppers to share their favorite DIY projects with items sold in your store.

6. Shoppers get excited to bargain shop.
Dollar stores attract a wide array of customers, including those that are price-conscious. This shopper goes to the store comparing prices on items found at the big box stores next to the products for sale at the dollar store. This might mean name brand items a few dollars less than down the street or a special price cut on a clearance item. If you want to encourage consumers hunting for deals on goods to visit your business, there are a few things you should consider. Make sure you are aware of your store’s price perception and work on correcting any misinformation on your costs. Compare your prices to others to remain price competitive. However, when it makes sense, promote sale items through circulars and on social media. Incorporate signage and merchandising tactics, like those that show price drops for popular products to create an added reason for shoppers to make a purchase

7. Coupons are accepted.
For many coupon-crazed consumers, dollar stores can end up providing an even deeper discount as many accept manufacturer coupons. Just as customers are eager to find discounts on the shelves, accepting coupons means customers can walk out of a store saving even more money.
Depending on your store’s policy, you may want to consider setting up a email list to keep your customers in the loop about the deals at your store. You can also use loyalty programs to communicate with and even reward frequent shoppers. Send out periodic customer appreciation notes or $5 coupons to give coupon clipping customers the feeling that they can save money at your store as well. 

8. Consumer demographics are wide and varied.
While some perceive the dollar store serves just low-income customers, the reality is that it draws customers from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are frugal shoppers, some like to hunt for unique products, some have specific items that they purchase exclusively at dollar stores and all are able to find what they need from these retail outlets. As the local home improvement business, your job is to attract customers from all walks of life. If you can draw in a wide range of customers, you can grow your sales and hopefully create relationships with consumers, regardless of income level.

9. Customers can score deals without paying for shipping.
Amazon and online retail outlets won’t necessarily steal all the business from the dollar store. Customers can find what they need at a dollar store at a low cost and don’t need to worry about paying shipping fees to get the item. Promote this benefit with your shoppers as well. Many of the heavier items that they purchase in your store will end up being a better deal than shopping online and then paying for shipping and handling. 

10. Dollar stores are convenient to shop. Dollar store chains are one of the easiest to locate businesses in any community, from rural to urban locales. With thousands of stores across the country, shoppers know what to expect and that they can find brand-name products at a discount, items that can be used for different DIY projects and much more. In fact, Dollar Tree and Dollar General, two of the top dollar discount retailer chains, have about 14,000 to 15,000 stores each, according to Business Insider.

As an independent retailer, you have the distinction of being a business that serves your community. Like the dollar store, you are convenient to shop, but you are also locally owned. Highlight your connection to the community to differentiate yourself from corporately owned chains as a way of drawing in customers.

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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