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United Hardware Highlights Niche Categories at its July Buying Market

Attendees looking for niche categories to add value to their product offerings saw two options front and center at the United Hardware July Buying Market, held July 12-14 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis.

In addition to the usual array of hardlines vendors from across the core categories, the distributor emphasized two niche categories—sporting goods and work clothing—in a retail-type format front and center on the market floor. Both are currently experiencing upswings in sales across the market.

“We’re seeing the success of individual retailers in two areas that haven’t formerly been core categories in a lot of hardware stores,” says United Hardware President and CEO Steve Draeger. “We’re sharing the ideas that are working so more of our customers can take advantage of those opportunities.”

Tom Ryan, manager of Johnson’s Hardware Hank in Zimmerman, Minn., is one of those retailers finding success with sporting goods. He says that even though his store is near a sporting goods big-box retailer, he has been selling the category for several years.

“We’re thinking of expanding some of our hunting goods accessories,” he says. “The way United Hardware has displayed some of these items offers me a good opportunity to see the areas where I want to expand my selection.”

Another trend in the work clothing area was the prevalence of flame resistant (FR) clothing. To date, many of the opportunities for these items has fallen in areas near oil fields. However, other industries, such as electrical workers, are now recommending the use of FR clothing, giving more retailers opportunities for selling these items.

United Hardware’s sporting goods and work clothing displays follow a trend seen at many buying markets across the home improvement industry. While the rest of the market floor held the traditional booths manned by vendor representatives, featured areas displayed items similar to how they would appear in a retail setting.

This format allowed United Hardware not only to show market attendees the breadth of product it carries all in one place, but also to show some of the merchandising techniques critical for the success of those categories.

“This area allows us to show our customers the full breadth of the categories that we already have in our warehouse,” Draeger says. “Our customers can see, in one place, ways to merchandise the products as well as category trends.”

About Amanda Bell

Amanda Bell was an assistant editor of Hardware Retailing and NRHA. Amanda regularly visited with home improvement retailers across the country and attended industry events and seminars. She earned a degree in magazine journalism from Ball State University and has received honors for her work for Hardware Retailing from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.

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