Every home improvement operation is unique, but a few core categories unite them all. One of them is builders hardware, the various pieces used to protect and add convenience to shelves, doors, windows, locks and more. Though it’s a well-established component of nearly every operation, neglecting the category can be a costly mistake that could reduce your revenue and even lower customers’ opinions of your business.
Chris Schramm, store manager of Trilling True Value in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, says maintaining accounts with local construction crews is a key way to keep sales strong in the category. As one of the oldest home improvement stores in the U.S., Trilling True Value has seen product trends come and go. Discover what Schramm and his team do to keep the builders hardware category fresh and profitable each year.
Tim Alexander owns Alexander True Value Hardware in Farmington, Michigan. He sees the convenience and utility of builders hardware products as a direct way to gain loyal customers. Learn how his team goes the extra mile to give customers everything they need and boost transaction sizes in the process.
An Honest Account
According to the Home Improvement Research Institute’s (HIRI) Size of the Home Improvement Products Market report, overall hardware product sales reached $402 million in 2019. Notably, from 2018 to 2019, overall hardware sales to pros grew 3.8 percent.
Selling builders hardware to pros is a long-running strategy at Trilling True Value. For many years, the business has offered professional accounts to construction crews and major facilities around Sheboygan.
“With accounts, customers save a certain percentage off the top,” Schramm says. “It’s very convenient for them—once a month, they get a bill and pay all at once.”
Recently, a large apartment complex was built near the store, and the Trilling team established an account with the builders and the maintenance crews working at the apartments.
“They wanted their handymen to be able to come by and get products without having to go into town,” Schramm says.
He says his customers are a blend of pro and DIY customers, and offering them options in this particular category is key. The company’s fasteners section is lined with rows of drawers customers can pull out to find the perfect match for their project.
“We sell everything by the unit or by the box,” Schramm says. “We don’t have a lot of individual packs with eight screws, for example. You can buy one, or buy an entire box. A lot of people just need two washers; they don’t need a pack of 10 or a box of 100.”
One key way the Trilling team keeps this category fresh is by regularly reviewing sales analytics for key SKUs. “We’re constantly looking at dead weight, the products that just aren’t moving,” Schramm says. “It’s always out with the old and looking to identify core items for the category. We want to keep the department relevant.”
‘Fasteners Are Money’
Tim Alexander in Michigan offers nearly 100 linear feet of nuts, bolts and fasteners. He says offering a variety of choices in this category helps solidify the business’s reputation as a reliable partner and a true rival to nearby big-box competitors.
“Fasteners are money,” he says. “It might be 23 cents here and there, but it adds up quickly and the product selection lets people know they can trust your store.”
Alexander says one of his strategies for merchandising this category is to keep inventory near the back of the store, so people who may come to the store only requiring one or two pieces of builders hardware have to pass through other departments, endcaps and signage on their way.
Another way he supports the category is by ensuring staff understands the ins and outs of builders hardware, including the possibility that some customers may need metric pieces and others may require imperial conversions.
The company also employs a part-time locksmith, so when customers purchase locks, a salesperson knows to direct them to the locksmith’s suite of rekeying and master keying services.
Merchandising With Purpose
Both Schramm and Alexander agree this category, with its numerous small pieces that can easily slip out of grip and slide straight down an aisle, can be tricky to keep tidy.
“It’s always out with the old and looking to identify core items for the category. We want to keep the department relevant.”
Schramm says as customers explore the inventory and compare separate pieces, any retailer’s builders hardware department will slowly grow disorganized. He asks his employees to patrol the area frequently to ensure no pieces are creating a dangerous obstacle.
He also trains employees to gather discarded pieces from the floor and the shelves and place them in a nearby bucket. As the bucket fills and employees find some downtime, they re-sort the pieces individually, helping keep the area easy to navigate for shoppers and teammates.
Alexander agrees keeping this department clean is crucial.
“The atmosphere you provide customers determines if someone buys one item or fills a whole cart,” he says. “If you can provide a well-maintained, clean store, that’s how you get loyal customers, especially in home improvement.”
Best Practices for Builders Hardware
Devoting some time to your builders hardware category can be a small investment that adds value to nearly every transaction at your business. Follow some key category insights to help sales grow in this quiet but powerful home improvement category.
KEEP THE AREA CLEAN
Both Alexander and Schramm agree keeping this category well organized is crucial. Not only does a messy department make customers reluctant to shop at your store, it can also be a physical danger. The fasteners aisle is full of small parts that can pose a slip-and-fall hazard to your customers and employees. Be sure the area is swept well regularly.
COUNT YOUR ACCOUNTS
If your business offers sales accounts to contractors and maintenance professionals, do a semi-annual review of those accounts to be sure your professional base is growing. Analyze the types of industries you serve and scout for new opportunities in and around your community.
HIGHLIGHT FINISHED PROJECTS
Builders hardware supports larger pieces, so many of your customers may be proud of a DIY project they’re just about to finish. Encourage their creativity! Ask them to send finished photos of their projects. With their permission, you can post those photos to your company’s social media accounts to inspire other shoppers.