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Mastering Merchandising in the Clothing Department

Rick Hoover’s family has been in the hardware business for more than 50 years, serving a small community of just over 1,200 people in northern Pennsylvania. As the clothing retail industry started shifting and malls were no longer traffic-drivers, Hoover saw an opportunity to expand into clothing.

Hoover Hardware Do it Center opened a clothing department on its second floor that primarily focused on workwear for tradespeople and a small selection of men’s and women’s casual wear. In 2015, after many successful years in that space, it was time to grow.

An empty storefront which had housed another hardware store many years before sat just one block away from Hoover Hardware. The two-story building weighed on Hoover’s mind. After deliberating with his wife Cheri about what the building could become, Hoover bought it and began an extensive renovation process.

“We decided it would be perfect for a standalone clothing store,” Hoover says.

When The Clothing Store opened in the refurbished building in 2017, the department significantly expanded.

“Back at the hardware store, we were busting at the seams with sales and inventory in about 4,000 square feet of salesfloor,” Hoover says. “This new building gave us 10,000 square feet of salesfloor on two floors.”

A teamwide commitment to strong merchandising is a core philosophy of The Clothing Store.

“Even from the beginning, when the clothing department started in the hardware store, we wanted it to have a really nice presence,” Hoover says. “It needed to have well-displayed product and be a very inviting department, not just be some aisles in a hardware store.”

Each department has its own needs depending on the audience—men’s casual wear, women’s casual wear and workwear—and The Clothing Store team takes merchandising seriously. Check out the merchandising and inventory management tips for clothing on the following pages. For the complete story on Hoover Hardware Do it Center and The Clothing Store, click here.


The clothing department at Hoover Hardware started with a specialization in flame-retardant clothing for tradeworkers.

Clothing for tradespeople was where it all started for Hoover’s. The company’s ability to get specialty items—such as flame-retardant clothing for gasfield workers—helped build their reputation as a place to buy hard-to-find or specialized items. Having cold-weather accessories such as socks and gloves in stock for workers who needed them on their way to the work site also served as a powerful differentiator.
On your workwear displays, highlight well-known brands and make items easy to grab and go.

Organize by brand.
When it comes to workwear, people tend to have brand preferences or even allegiances. Highlight the brands you carry with clear signage and group them together to make the segment easy to shop.

Put it on the wall.
If you have the space, a shoe wall display can make a dramatic statement showing your commitment to the category. From steel-toed boots to galoshes, show off your stock.

Make it simple to accessorize.
Workers may stop in to quickly grab an extra pair of gloves or thermal socks on their way to the job site. Create an impulse display that makes it easy for them to find what they need and entice shoppers who are on their way to check out.

“Stocking workwear really became a great strength for us. We are happy we can be workers’ one-stop shop for those types of products.”

Men’s Casual Wear

Depending on your market, there may be some crossover between men’s casual wear and workwear. At The Clothing Store, both departments are housed on the second floor because of their similarities. Clear brand signage helps lead shoppers to the areas that appeal to their immediate needs.

For your menswear department, offer a variety of items that can serve both work and casual purposes, and use displays that show the difference between working and relaxing.

“When we first opened the department in the hardware store, people received it very well. They were excited they could buy basic clothing items in town.”

Use unique merchandisers.
The staff at The Clothing Store displays clothing on items they have laying around, from small wooden boxes to nail kegs. Not only does it add visual interest, but it also brings back the heritage of the building and the town in small details.

Show it in action.
The clothes may be casual, but your customers want to know their quality. Encourage employees to wear what you sell so they can speak to its comfort and utility.

Depend on the basics.
You may not have space for extensive outerwear selections or shoes, so use the space you have for the things people need. Highlight T-shirts, socks and jeans to capture the everyday sale.

Women’s Casual Wear

One of the biggest adjustments Hoover says he has to make when he stops into The Clothing Store is to let shoppers browse, especially when it comes to women’s casual wear. One of the biggest differences between hardware and clothing shoppers is that people don’t often need assistance with clothing.

Hoover says it’s better to let them browse, and smart merchandising can do the talking. Occasionally a customer requests to purchase every item in a display, especially those in the large exterior-facing windows.

“We knew having women’s clothing would be challenging, but it’s a classic product. We knew we could have a strong product mix and variety.”

Don’t overdo it.
Simple displays make it easier for shoppers to see individual items. Keep your racks full, but not stuffed, and make sure your aisles are clear. Combine racks as needed if your inventory gets low to avoid empty spaces.

Change outfits regularly.
Trends move quickly in clothing, and that can make merchandising challenging. Show shoppers what’s in style from head to toe and make a plan to swap it out each month.

Make it easily giftable.
Women often pick up accessories as quick gifts, so make that part of the shopping process easy. Offer tissue paper at checkout and cross-merchandise gift bags with gloves, scarves and handbags, especially during the holidays.

About Melanie Moul

Melanie is the communications and content manager for the North American Hardware and Paint Association. She joined the NHPA team in 2016 as an editor for Hardware Retailing and now helps lead the communications team to deliver relevant, timely content to the industry.

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