Hardware stores roam in greener pastures

GROWING BUSINESS At Wilson True Value Hardware, customers are offered Greener Options.

There’s no doubt that “green” is red hot. In the last year, Ace, True Value and Do it Best have all introduced their own green programs—called Helpful Earth Choices, Greener Options and enviroLINK, respectively—and Orgill, the Memphis, Tenn.-based distributor, recently kicked of f a green program that concentrates on energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, recycling and sustainable forestry.

Many co-op members and independent hardware stores are picking up on this trend, carrying more sustainable products and, in some cases, creating separate green departments. “The majority of members definitely see that the green trend must be taken seriously,” said Jennifer Zerwer, merchandising communications specialist for True Value, whose program offers 2,200-plus products. “There is more of a consumer driven desire for products that are kinder to the earth and result in less of a negative impact.”

Bob Taylor, president and CEO of Do it Best, agrees that green is no longer a passing fad but that many consumers are adopting it as part of their life style. “Our enviroLINK is just a way of high lighting that idea at retail, especially in areas like electrical and cleaning products,” he said. “If the products can work as well and be better for the environment, the demand will grow.”

Allendale True Value in Allendale, Mich., kicked off its green program in April to coincide with Earth Week, sponsoring in-store presentations in hazardous waste, rain gardens, green fertilizing and gardening, green cleaning, compact fluorescent lighting and geothermal energy. Allendale now stocks almost 900 green products—calling them out with Greener Options signage and shelf tags—and is partnering with the West Michigan Environmental Action Council to bring green living awareness to area residents.

“A lot of people are curious about the full impact of using these products,” said Craig Emenaker, the store’s marketing/web development coordinator. “It’s tough to say how many people fully get into green products, but we’re going to continue to carry them and do an even bigger event during Earth Week next year.”

Ben F. Wilson III, owner of Wilson True Value Hardware in Kingsville, Texas, was impressed with True Value’s green program when he saw it at the spring market in Orlando in March. He now has a Greener Options end cap with 25 to 30 products like cleansers, fertilizer and insecticides, as well as a large selection of CFLs in his lighting department. In addition, Wilson sells Greener Options reusable bags to his customers for a nominal fee and gives them 25 cents off their order if they bring them back in.

For a long time, I’ve carried push mowers, can crushers and other products that would be considered green, but this put it under the Greener Options banner,” he said. “We recognize this is a direction we want to go in and have even put on the marquee in the front: ‘We are a destination for green products through Greener Options.’ ”

Wilson also sends out e-mails to about 600 of his True Value Rewards customers to alert them to specials on these products. As for customer reaction to the green category? “At this point, we do have some who are cognizant of eco products, but we still have to lead a lot of people to water on these products.”

Wagner Hardware, a Do it Best store located near Rice University in Houston, has also embraced the green concept. About six months ago, the 70-year- old store partnered with a Houston real estate broker to set up a “green living” section within its store.

Called “New Living: Healthy Home Essentials,” this department—which takes up bout a quarter of the 4,000- square-foot store—features everything from no-VOC paint to all-wool carpeting to a complete line of household cleaning products. Also included are Ice Stone countertops, which are made from recycled glass and concrete, bamboo flooring, organic cotton bedding and a variety of lawn care products. The products come from Do it Best’s enviroLINK program as well as other sources.

“We get new merchandise in every week, and people come from all over because there’s no place like this in Houston,” said store owner Nancy Wagner Abernathy. “We’re just a basic hardware store, so it’s a good fit. It adds to our appeal.”

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