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Ann Arbor Trip

6 Lessons From Michigan Hardware Retailers

North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) staffers are regularly visiting independent home improvement stores, getting to know owners and employees and learning lessons on retail everywhere they go.

In late June, NRHA’s Hilary Welter and Renee Changnon spent two days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with retailers and picked up the following tips to share.

WardsDive Into Your Niche(s)

Ward’s Do-it Best Hardware in Hamburg, Michigan, is located among a string of lakes. Owner Steve Ward understands that his customers hobbies include outdoor activities and birding, so he carries products that suit that interest. He dedicates plenty of endcap and shelf space to birding products and lake accessories including bags, rafts and coolers.



StadiumBe Proud of Your Roots

When a customer walks into Stadium Hardware Inc., they can find every major hardlines category. On top of that, the Ann Arbor store showcases years of history, which line the walls. The store displays vintage hardware relics passed down by previous owners and customers. Also hanging on the walls are newspaper articles, framed photos and other items marking historic moments for the company.



BarnesSell Your Merchandising–Literally 

At Ace Barnes Hardware, gifts and housewares is a big deal. Instead of merchandising kitchen accessories, home decor and other gifts on shelves, owner Bridgett Barnes displays products on furniture like tables and other unique stands, which customers can purchase if they desire. Not only does this merchandising tactic brighten up the store, but it also paints a picture for the customer of what a piece could look like in his or her home.

When In Doubt, Hang It From the CeilingWards

Ward does a fantastic job utilizing every inch of space in his store. And to really make the most of it, he’s hung ladders from the ceiling to display hanging products like wind chimes and other decorations. It adds a fun flare to the store and allows him to display items that would otherwise be difficult to showcase.


CongdonsMesh With Your Community, and Stay Funky 

Congdon’s Ace Hardware can be found in the middle of downtown Ypsilanti, Michigan, a historical town with a strong local vibe. This is a description that Congdon’s Ace Hardware also embodies. With it’s unique and vintage signage, and even an old-time Pepsi machine, the store matches its surrounding community and makes customers feel right at home.



Try Something New

During our visit, Barnes told us that she believes a store matches the personality of its customers. Knowing that, she’s always on the lookout for new products that she knows her customers will enjoy. For example, she recently added Kate Spade items to her housewares department and it’s proven to already be successful. Adding new and interesting products can be intimidating, but giving customers what they want can be well worth it.

For more photos from the Ann Arbor trip and other store visits around the country, follow NRHA on Facebook.

About Hilary Welter

As marketing and research coordinator, it’s Hilary’s duty to keep retailers informed about NRHA products and services and to help coordinate industry research projects. Additionally, Hilary is the voice behind NRHA’s and Hardware Retailing’s social media accounts. She appreciates a good book, spicy food, well-made horror films, craft beer and exploring new places near and far.

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