July 2, 2012

Described as a big win for advocates of a level retail playing field, Amazon.com began collecting sales tax in Texas July 1.

“A true free market is devoid of government preferences and special treatment,” said Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). “Texas has made a powerful statement that it's time to end special treatment for online retailers and close the sales tax loophole that gives companies like Amazon an artificial leg up on Main Street retailers.”

June 21, 2012

According to a quarterly survey of tens of thousands of home improvement professionals, more than 60% of pros shop at big boxes.

The survey, the TraQline PRO report from The Stevenson Co., also found pros -- including general contractors, painters, plumbers and landscapers -- are motivated by competitive prices when buying home improvement materials.

The TraQline PRO findings include:

June 1, 2012

Offer exclusive products, make the most of your retail brands online and accentuate the positives of your store touch points.

May 28, 2012

For the second year in a row, HCN has compiled a state-by-state list of high performers, innovative retailers and classic stores. It’s called the 2012 Home Chanel News Hardware Store All-Star list. Strong customer service is the common thread for all 50 retailers. From there, community involvement, company history, great products and interesting niches set these businesses apart from the competition. 

April 27, 2012

Channel analysis Sales of exterior lighting products jumped 21.3% in the 12 months from March 2011 to February 2012, compared with the same period in the previous year, according to the market size estimate from NPD Group’s Consumer Tracking Service. Consumers lit up their yards to the tune of $789 million during that time, with most of the spend occurring at warehouse home centers.

March 2, 2012

Robert and Vicki Amberg, owners of Gerstner Hardware in Glenn, Mich., recently proved their commitment to their surrounding community by re-locating a nearby Post Office designated to close and incorporating it into their store.

The story reminded me of my Uncle Jerry, proprietor of an independent store stuffed with hardware SKUs and located in South Newfane, Vt.

February 7, 2012

E-commerce sales continue to grow, proving that more and more consumers are choosing to shop online in addition to or instead of shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. Measurement firm comScore reported that online retail spending (excluding auctions, autos and large corporate purchases) for the fourth quarter reached $49.7 billion, up 14% versus year ago. This growth rate represented the ninth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and the fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth rates. For the entire 2011 year, U.S.

January 6, 2012

Channel analysis Dollar sales and unit sales of the caulk and sealant category both showed year-over-year gains, according to consumer research from the Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group. But unit volume is down compared with two years ago. The warehouse home centers dominated — nearly three of every five tubes of caulk — but have trended down in the past 12 months.

January 6, 2012

Of all the problems that lead to customer-service problems at home improvement stores, “out of stock” is the most common.

At least that’s the findings from a recent consumer study performed by MarketTools, a global research firm based in San Francisco, which asked 1,000 consumers: “Have you experienced any type of customer service problem with a home improvement retailer in the past 12 months?”

January 5, 2012

The Mooresville, N.C.-based home improvement retailer's MyLowe's online product will be on display at the 2012 International CES show in Las Vegas.

The tech features of MyLowe's include a card or key fob to track in-store purchases online; a digital home profile to create rooms and store floor dimensions, product details and notes for the home; and folders to organize projects and ideas.

The Jan. 10-12 consumer electronics show is one of the biggest trade fair's in the country. 



December 2, 2011

Multichannel retailing has been a buzzword since long before Jeff Bezos first reported a profit at Amazon.com (that was back in January 2002). Today, the biggest home improvement retailers are still at it, walking shoulder-to-shoulder into the multichannel future. Well, at least, they sound a lot alike.

Consider the following clicks-and-bricks-related comments:

November 15, 2011

Consumer research from Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group indicates that the home improvement industry grew 2% in the 12 months ended September 2011 compared with 2010. Specialty retailers and online shopping are making significant gains, and hardware stores are also “gaining sales momentum,” the research showed.

Home improvement, as tracked by The NPD Group, includes categories in hand tools, power tools, outdoor power equipment, storage and organization, faucets and shower heads, lighting and electrical, fans, and caulk/glue/adhesives.

November 7, 2011

Channel analysis Air-powered tools have a market size of $184,163,000, according to research from Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firm NPD Group. Consumer research also shows mass merchants and specialty stores are growing, while warehouse home centers dominate the field.

November 7, 2011

The race for the winning e-commerce formula continues. The latest effort comes from Mooresville, N.C., where the nation’s second-largest home improvement retailer is taking a holistic approach to engaging customers across channels.

Lowe’s launched its MyLowes Web-based tool last month and described it as a digital effort to help consumers maintain, manage and dream about home improvement.

October 24, 2011

Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe's launched its MyLowes Web-based tool, its digital effort to help consumers maintain, manage and dream about home improvement.

September 28, 2011

Some of the best leaders in retail have been hammering at customer service initiatives throughout the home channel for years on end. So how are they doing? According to research from San Francisco-based MarketTools Inc., pretty good, but not great.

Of 1,000 consumers asked to think back to their last time they shopped at a home improvement store and describe service on a scale of 1 to 9, the average mark was 6.5. The study, conducted in July using a nationally representative sample of consumers, also found 75.3% believe service has neither improved nor declined.

September 28, 2011

With locations in Baton Rouge and Denham Springs, La., Do it Best Corp. member Holmes Building Materials operates two home centers, both with about 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space, supplemented by full lumberyards out back and powered by a 22-truck fleet. One location is heavily commercial, the other is heavily retail-oriented, and both operate a store-within-a-store Holmes Windows Doors & More.

August 31, 2011

Across the country, and across a broad spectrum of industries, advertisements sporting mobile bar codes are becoming an increasingly familiar sight. QR codes — quick response codes — are the most common of a few types of bar codes that consumers can scan using a pre-downloaded smartphone app. The bar codes may appear on anything from posters to packaging to catalogs and, when scanned, lead consumers to a specific set of information, often through a mobile website.

August 31, 2011

True Value CEO Lyle Heidemann offered some friendly advice to a reporter recently. “Bring your camera to Philadelphia this year,” he said. 

Philadelphia is the site of the Chicago-based co-op’s Fall Market, Sept. 23 to 25. Here, True Value will be displaying its Destination True Value store design and format for smaller stores. In the Philadelphia and nearby East Coast markets, the co-op is expecting strong attendance from dealers with smaller-than-average footprints. 

August 31, 2011

Lowe’s second-quarter financial report was a disappointment to the company’s executives, who made no excuses for the retailer’s poor showing. Earnings were down slightly, revenues grew by only 1.3%, and comp-store sales were essentially flat. “Even after taking into account the challenges of the macro environment, we are still not pleased with our performance this year,” said chairman and CEO Robert Niblock, speaking at an analysts’ conference call on Aug. 15. 

August 31, 2011

Ten months after the launch of True Value’s new-and-improved e-commerce program, the statistics are beginning to pile up. Most importantly, perhaps, almost 2,000 stores have signed up for the program, allowing customers to shop online and pick up purchases in their local hardware store. 

There are some things still unknown in the e-commerce world, such as the correlation between Web browsing and in-store buying. But True Value believes it’s getting closer to an understanding. And it likes what the data are showing. 

August 3, 2011

A customer satisfaction survey by J.D. Powers and Associates found that sales, delivery and installation service are slightly more important than facilities, product assortment and price when it comes to buying major appliances. 

August 2, 2011

Sulphur Springs, Texas — “Let me show you something.”

That’s how an employee at Fix & Feed Sulphur Springs Hardware greeted a reporter who was visiting the store about 80 miles east of Dallas on a hot July weekday. She marched to a back room of the 20,000-sq.-ft. hardware store to a door marked “Keep this door closed at all times,” and led the visitor inside. 

“Here is where we make the fudge,” she said. 

July 19, 2011

Brick-and-mortar retailers pay taxes. Online retailers often don't. That scenario along with a recent story about the online taxation debate raging in California led to the following reader comments about the relative fairness of sales tax rules in our increasingly digital world.