Builders hardware: upscale products increase sales

Builders Hardware

Upscale Products Increase Sales

Builders hardware in d-i-y stores is like bread-and-butter in a grocery store – customers need it, but they also want products with good taste.

Consumers spent $8.49 billion on hardware products in 1989 have helped create those sales.

Upscale storm doors and home security have locked in new opportunities for decorative, high-end entry hardware. Remodeling has maintained the market for kitchen and bath cabinet hardware. Locksets, hasps, hinges, door knobs and drawer pulls are standard hardware, but specialty imports and designer items are creating fashionable margins.


Retailers located in historic and affluent neighborhoods are finding specialty niches for builders hardware.

Traditionally, upscale, solid brass hardware has been used primarily for older home restoration projects, but is now popular for new homes as well, says Chuck Frederick, associate buyer for builders hardware, Hardware Wholesalers Inc., (HWI) Ft. Wayne, Ind.

An increasing number of retailers are finding a solid niche with brass entry door locksets, interior door handles, kick plates and cabinet hardware.

Buena Park Lumber & Hardware, Buena Park, Calif., launched a month-long grand opening of its new “Brass Works” showroom on March 1.

Opening the specialty showroom is a “natural extension” that fits the store’s image, says John Nelson, president. The upscale hardware matches the store’s upper-end cabinets, doors and windows, Nelson adds.

“If someone is interested in a $1,200 entry door, it makes sense to have a beautiful lockset that is $300 to $400, instead of $75,” Nelson explains. “With ball bearing hinges and other items, consumers can have something that complements the total package.”

Installing some of these more sophisticated products, such as mortise locks, requires more expertise than the average d-i-yer has. If you have considered introducing such products, you should be prepared to refer customers to a contractor, or offer an installed sales package.

Before beginning a specialty brass department, retailers also “have to have built up an existing clientele that won’t be adverse to special ordering,” Nelson says.

Nelson estimates his store carries more than 1,000 SKUs on the floor, but 50 percent of his sales are special ordered.

If retailers are selling low-end doors and cabinets, they probably shouldn’t sell upscale brass hardware. However, carrying a few specialty brass products for customers wanting to upgrade existing doors and cabinets without replacing the entire units may be an option to consider.

When merchandising these products, display boards are a must, as opposed to using pegboard, says Frederick.

One trend emerging for brass is that if homeowners use it for entryways and door knobs, they will carry brass trim throughout their home, particularly on cabinet knobs and pulls. The same is true for crystal and porcelain door knobs, which are also trendy right now, Frederick says.


Carded, blister- and skin-packed products have been the trend in the last several years. These colorful packages with detailed information work well for both dump bins and merchandisers. For consumer sales, quality packaging represents a quality product.
However, the environmental movement has some retailers opting for more bulk-packaged items to conserve plastic and cardboard paper.

HWI occasionally receives phone calls and letters from dealers, requesting smaller packaging, says Frederick. For example, HWI recently received a note from a dealer located in a community that regulated how much rubbish residents were allowed to throw out each week. The dealer felt he could do his part by asking for the size of packaging to be reduced on the products he sold in his store.

Price also plays a role in packaging. Retailers in a slow economic area, or with a substantial contractor base, may do better to merchandise screws, nails and bolts in bulk. “They (customers) don’t want to have to buy the package,” says Bill Small, owner, Small’s PRO Hardware, Cincinnati.


But whether retailers merchandise their hardware in bulk or upscale packaging, promotions for these staple product is just as important as big-ticket specialty products. Warehouse home centers often portray low prices on these items, and retailers can change consumers’ perceptions by advertising a broad selection of economical products.

“People are finding the little hardware store is a competitive as the large home center chains,” says Small. “They see we have the same deals.”

Nearly 60 percent of Small’s business, which includes four stores in the Cincinnati market, is hardware, says Small.

Re-merchandise you builders hardware lines periodically. Do your shelving hardware and shelving kits match? How often do customers request upgraded door and window hardware? Are locksets and deadbolts merchandised near other home security products? What is the competition doing to promote some of these items?

Not all consumers shop for solid brass door knockers and address numbers, but most shop for the best assortment and value.

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