Hardware stores cater to seniors
The over-65 population is a strong and significant customer base in the home improvement industry—and it only promises to get stronger as the population ages in the next couple of decades. In fact, the Administration on Aging reports that by 2030, Americans 65 and older will make up 20 percent of the population, up from 12.4 percent in 2000.
Like other retailers, hardware stores are trying to hone in on this segment of the business, as older Americans have more money to spend and the homes to spend it on.
“I think addressing the baby boomer population—particularly as it ages—is a very important thing,” said Fred Miller, managing director of the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI). “How to cater to their needs is a little more complex, and this is something that retailers need to understand and address.”
According to the National Aging in Place Council, an overwhelming majority of older Americans want to remain in their homes for as long as possible, which opens up an opportunity to offer advice and services to allow them to do so.
Trader Horn is a chain of 10 hardware stores in western Pennsylvania, which boasts one of the largest senior populations in the United States. Owner Bob Greenberger, 71, carries a variety of senior-oriented products, including a selection of Invacare bath safety products like transfer chairs, walkers and shower chairs.
“I think most retailers are reacting to it. Even Wal-Mart is adjusting to the fact that customers are getting older,” Greenberger said.
Hardware stores around the nation are also trying to cultivate a relationship with the local senior population by holding workshops to address some general as well as specific needs.
Mazzone True Value in Brooklyn, N.Y., conducts about three senior workshops each year at the request of a local state-funded community development group, owner Matthew Mazzone said. The latest one, held in the latter part of June, focused on energy efficiency, and the staff addressed topics like energy efficient lighting, timers for air conditioners, programmable thermostats and weather stripping. Approximately 20 senior citizens attended the event.
“Many times we find seniors reluctant to change to the new-fangled contraptions, so we thought it would be a good idea to show some of these items to them so they can see the benefits and not be afraid to try something new,” Mazzone said.
Marilyn Weisman, owner of Absecon Do it Best Hardware in Absecon, N.J., has been conducting an annual workshop for a local senior citizens group. Usually, the event takes place in late fall or early winter, when people are preparing for the months of cold weather ahead. Topics include programmable thermostats, weather stripping and furnace filters, which store employees offer advice on how to install and use.
Absecon Do it Best also caters to the local senior population by offering in-home services (seminar attendees receive a card good for a free in-home consultation). Services include going to a customer’s house to inspect his furnace filter, windows and/or other areas—and making appropriate recommendations.
“In offering these services to seniors, we have picked up various home repair jobs,” Weisman said.
DickBeal, owner of Merritt Island Ace Hardware in Merritt Island, Fla., has also held special events aimed at different populations—including seniors. During these sessions, he sets up different stations around the store and assigns employees to give 15- to 20-minute demonstrations on subjects like rewiring a lamp, rebuilding a faucet and repairing a screen.
Beal’s pointers include the following: Offer free refreshments, give away door prizes and make sure your store’s name is on anything you hand out.
“I’ve had as many as 300 people attend this type of workshop,” he said.
PRO Group makes key promotions
Denver-based PRO Group has promoted Brendan Sullivan to director of merchandising, a new position, according to the company.
Sullivan is a 21-year industry veteran who has served in various merchandising and business development positions for Servistar/Coast To Coast and True Value prior to joining PRO Group in 2005.
“Brendan Sullivan’s experience and work style makes him ideally suited to a merchandising director role,” said Steve Synnott, president and CEO of PRO Group, in a statement. “Brendan has worked as a buyer and merchandise manager, and since he joined our company three years ago he has taken a leading role in providing progressive ideas and programs on the merchandising side.”
In addition, PRO Group managing director for the PRO Hardware and GardenMaster divisions, Shari Kalbach, has been named managing director for the company’s Farm Mart division, which supplies independent farm supply retailers.
Kalbach joined PRO Group in 1997 and is responsible for all of the Group’s distributor relationships.
“Shari Kalbach has a proven track record as a highly effective executive working with PRO Group distributor members,” Synnott said. “Adding Farm Mart to Shari Kalbach’s scope of work is a natural progression of her role. She excels working closely with our distributor members.”
Design Within Reach narrows losses
Design Within Reach, the San Francisco-based specialty home decor retailer with around 70 locations nationwide, saw net losses of $159 million, narrower than the $575 million in losses recorded in the same period last year.
Net sales for the second quarter decreased 3.7 percent to $47.3 million, compared with $49.1 million recorded in the year-ago period.
Still, the retailer saw an improvement in gross margin, a measurement of earnings that takes production and service costs into consideration — gross margin improved to 46.4 percent in the second quarter, compared with 44.3 percent in the same period last year.
In-store sales were $32.6 million, up 2.2 percent from last year. Sales from phone and the dwr.com Web site decreased 17.5 percent to $10.4 million.
DWR also said it predicted that “in light of the challenging economic environment, the company believes revenue will be flat year over year.”