Independent stores highlight holiday category

In recent years, many independent hardware stores have begun to emphasize the holiday category in an effort to become a destination for everything from artificial trees to the latest in designer decorations -- and for good reason.

The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American will spend $49.76 on Christmas decorations this year, up from $46.49 in 2006.

And competition is heating up. Home Depot, for instance, intends to double its holiday decor sales in 2007. Todd Santee, Do it Best’s merchandise manager, outdoor living and trim-a-tree, said that when the numbers are in, he expects the co-op will have ordered 5 percent to 10 percent more merchandise for next year than it did for 2007.

Patron’s Do it Best Home Center in Bardstown, Ky., stepped up its Christmas business in 2006, taking a 600-square-foot space that had been used as a rental department and displaying 50 Christmas trees ranging in price from $79 to $500, as well as a variety of lights, wreaths, garlands and other basics.

Patron’s, which sold about 100 trees last year, does get some competition from a nearby Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, and they’re only 40 minutes from Louisville, which has many Christmas outlets.

“Lots of people used to go there [to Louisville], but we have brought a lot of business back here locally, which is a good feeling,” said Krista Foster, store manager.

Elliott Ace Hardware, with four locations in Elm Grove, Wis., has been building up its Christmas business since the early 1990s, flip-flopping the outdoor living department to a trim-a-tree area between November and January.

Hank Bros. True Value Hardware in Paducah, Ky., devotes about 500 square feet to Christmas in each of its two 12,000-square-foot stores, which face competition from two Lowe’s stores, two Wal-Mart Supercenters, a Home Depot and an independent Christmas tree store.

They were the first in their area to bring in pre-lit Christmas trees, and this year introduced the community to no-fluff artificial trees, which can be put up in about five minutes, according to fourth generation owner Chuck Hank. In addition, customers can pay an extra fee to have floor clerks come to their home and set up their trees.

“We may not be the biggest in terms of allocated floor space, but we’re right in there in terms of reputation and business,” he said.

For the full story, read the Dec. 17 issue of Home Channel News magazine. For subscription information, click here.

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