Home » Category » Beyond the Toolbox: Insights to Grow Your Hand and Power Tool Category
hand and power tool category

Beyond the Toolbox: Insights to Grow Your Hand and Power Tool Category

With something for home project enthusiasts to professional contractors, DIY newbies to renovation experts, the hand and power tool category has the potential to be a superstar department for your operation. With an influx of innovation and new products to choose from, your hand and power tool category should focus on fundamental items like drills and saws while mixing in new products.

At PaulB Hardware, with store locations in Lititz, Belleville and Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, hand and power tools take center stage. 

“Hand and power tools are one of the first things our customers see when they walk into the stores,” says Trent Martin, buyer for PaulB Hardware. “We prioritize dedicating a significant portion of our sales floor to power tools.”

Stay on Top of Trends

Showalter says trends come and go very quickly, so to stay on top of what’s hot many of the members of his team follow social media accounts that review products before they are released. Through social media, Showalter’s team can watch how the industry is trending and see what products companies are releasing.

One of the benefits of being an independent retailer is the ability to react to trending items quicker than many big-box stores. 

Susan Harlan, second-generation owner of Vickery Ace Hardware in Smyrna, Georgia, reinforces the benefit of being independent and being able to pivot by listening to her employees on the products customers are looking for. 

“Big-box stores generally place orders for the whole year but we don’t operate like that. We place multiple orders throughout the year,” Harlan says.“When we’re able to react to trends, it allows us to remain competitive with bigger retailers.”

Maintaining quality relationships with vendors is crucial to staying on top of new hand and power tool products and keeping the basics in stock. 

“We regularly reach out and ask our vendors if there’s anything new coming out that we need to be aware of,” Showalter says.

Both Showalter and Martin receive frequent new product emails and collaborate to assess the usefulness, quality and alignment of each product with the  operation’s motto of “Heavy-Duty Hardware.”

Opt for Quality 

Martin says being able to stand behind the quality of the products they carry in their stores is important because they don’t want customers to have to come back and return a product because it broke two months later. A customer having to return a defective product erodes loyalty to the retailer and has a negative financial impact as well.

Many customers don’t think about the impact of a return on a small business. Retailers across the nation reported a return rate of 14.5%, losing $743 billion, according to the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail. Martin says they make sure a company is ethical before bringing that company’s products into the stores.

“We make sure we trust the company and their products before selling in our stores,” Martin says. “When we know a company is trustworthy, it allows us to carry items at different price points and vouch for the quality at each price point.”

In the back of each of PaulB’s stores is a workshop of mechanics who provide warranty and repair services for many of the brands they carry. Although PaulB strives for all of its products to be durable, the majority of the power tools it carries can be repaired under warranty.

At PaulB’s flagship store in Lititz, Martin leverages the mechanics’ expertise to test new products. Mechanics provide honest feedback after using samples, helping the operation ensure the functionality and durability of the tools it carries.

“In our mechanic shop, for example, if we get a sample of a welding product, we’ll give our mechanics the product to try and have them give us their honest opinion,” Showalter says. “We take what they say seriously because they know what they like and how a tool should function.”

Like many stores with limited space for new SKUs, Showalter says getting the product beforehand plays a lot in his decision on whether to put in an order. Many times, he can tell the quality just by holding it. 

“Store owners should always try to get their hands on new products,” Showalter says. “We’ll send hand and power tools home with our employees and ask them to give us a report on what worked, what didn’t work and what they thought about the tool.”

Caleb Showalter, tools and outdoor power supervisor for PaulB, says the key to success in this department lies in introducing new and innovative products to customers but still carrying basic tool options.

“The biggest challenge we have in our stores is finding space for all of the new and innovative products,” Showalter says. “We may get a few new products in plumbing and electrical but the hand and power tools category is consistently coming out with new products.”

Part of Showalter’s job is staying on top of industry trends and finding items he believes will sell in the stores. The main way he stays on top of the trends and decides what products will sell well is by listening to the customer.

Woman Empowerment

According to a study from Lombardo Homes, 93% of women have completed a DIY project in their home, but 2 in 5 women surveyed say they feel they are treated differently by male employees and 1 in 5 felt judged asking for help.

Susan Harlan, owner of Vickery Ace Hardware, says being a female store owner has empowered her to market to female DIYers and make everyone who comes into her store feel accepted.

“We make a point to all our employees not to treat anybody differently when they walk into our store,” Harlan says. “We’re very cognizant of women who come in, and we don’t make them feel like they don’t know something, or that they’re foolish to ask us certain questions.”

Harlan lost both her husband and father in the early 2000s and realized quickly she needed to be able to take care of herself. 

“Being a woman and buying a power drill is life-changing. When you own a drill you are able to do so much around your home without asking for help,” Harlan says. “I always felt like I was handy, but after that point, I realized how much I could do myself. It was very empowering and comforting that despite these losses, I would be able to take care of myself.”

*Content Sponsored by Channellock.

About Jacob Musselman

Jacob is the content coordinator for Hardware Retailing Magazine. A lifelong Hoosier, Jacob earned a B.S. in journalism and telecommunications with a minor in digital publishing from Ball State University. He loves making bagels, going to farmers markets with his wife Hannah and two dogs and watching Formula One.

Check Also

Guidelines for AI Usage in the Retail Sector

As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to expand throughout all industries, the National Retail Federation (NRF) …