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Open the Door to Decorative Hardware

Within the hardware and fastener category rests decorative hardware. Unlike most items in this category, decorative hardware purchases aren’t born of necessity. While a customer needs screws, bolts and nails immediately for almost any task, decorative hardware is a space where customers can browse and ensure they find doorknobs, drawer pulls and handles that perfectly match their personal style.

With its low inventory requirements, relatively high margins and the fact that category purchases often represent one piece of a much larger construction or renovation project, decorative hardware merits a close examination from every retailer.

Marc Adler, co-owner of Adler’s Design Center and Hardware in Providence, Rhode Island, says decorative hardware is a key component of the business he runs with his cousin. In the suburbs of Houston in Conroe, Texas, Decor Builders Hardware manager Alan Weemes searches for new ways to connect customers, designers and contractors with his decorative hardware assortment.

Discover how Adler and Weemes are merchandising their inventory, finding new products and staying on top of trends to help customers add character and functionality to their living spaces.

On the Rise

Though Adler and Weemes do business in different regions, they both agree that one specific category trend is on the rise with modern homeowners: satin brass hardware. “New colors are always popular, but I think satin brass is the hot new trend,” Weemes says. “Once you see a few manufacturers gravitate around one specific color, you know it’s going to be around for a while.”

Top-Shelf Merchandising

Adler says merchandising decorative hardware strategically is important. Customers are encouraged to touch decorative hardware products, such as knobs, locksets and drawer pulls, that are well merchandised. That connection brings them one step closer to a purchase.

Adler’s decorative hardware displays hang from slat walls and have six rotating displays on the salesfloor, enabling customers to compare models quickly. Shoppers can also find active locksets installed in displays that replicate miniature doors.

“The rotating displays and active locksets are good ways to demonstrate the quality of the products,” Adler says. “Once people touch them, they can tell they’re heavier and have better springs than a lot of the big-box models.”

A Packed House

decorative handles
Alan Weemes says clean merchandising helps shoppers browse decorative hardware items in their personal style.

Understanding your specific market is critical. In suburban Texas, Weemes says residential construction has boomed, motivating him to be resourceful and capture sales from contractors.

“We offer what we call a full-house pack,” Weemes says. “That kit goes out to crews working on new homes, and includes all interior and exterior door locks, cabinet hardware, towel rings, doorstops and Molly bolts needed to mount items into sheetrock.”

Weemes relies on special orders for most decorative hardware products, but keeps enough inventory in stock to send out 40 to 50 full-house packs each day. But that’s not the only way Weemes and his company court construction crews.

Decor Builders Hardware also displays products in the offices of local custom home builders, which can drive business even if customers never set foot inside the company’s own showroom.

“The selection in custom homebuilders’ offices is smaller,” Weemes says. “Someone might have dozens of choices when they come into my store, but the homebuilder just wants them to choose between a few pieces to streamline everything.”

The longer you sell decorative pieces and research your market, the more your reputation will grow.
—Marc Adler, Adler’s Design Center and Hardware

Retail by Design

For more than 25 years, Adler’s business has also offered complete design services for customers.

“Designers guide customers through wallpaper, paint, decorative hardware—whatever they need. We also provide installation services, so we’re a little different from most hardware stores,” Adler says.

The design team is based inside Adler’s Design Center and Hardware, but often makes in-home visits to help customers visualize renovation possibilities and establish a more personal connection between the business and its customers.

With the design and installation services, customers feel they’re investing in their next project and receiving a stronger finished product than with big-box stores.

“Lowe’s and Home Depot often sell low-quality hardware, so we’re not really competing with them. We’re offering something they just don’t have for customers,” Adler says.

Even if your store can’t offer design or installation services, Adler says there are still ways to bolster decorative hardware sales.

“Check out design centers in your area—even competitors,” he says. “Find out the income levels in your area to determine what you should carry. The longer you sell decorative pieces and research your market, the more your reputation will grow.”

Off to Market

decorative hardware
Rotating displays encourage customers to touch hardware to examine its quality, says Marc Adler.

Both retailers say attending industry markets and trade shows is a worthwhile investment to boost product knowledge and discover new inventory.

Adler and Weemes have both attended the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, and Weemes also attends annual homebuilding events in the Houston area to reach prospective homeowners. 

They say the events give retailers like them the opportunity to compare new category additions at a glance and offer a chance to speak directly with manufacturers and sales representatives to learn more about how decorative hardware inventory can enhance their businesses.

Adler and Weemes encourage other retailers to seek out new trade shows to browse upcoming merchandise in person. Attend local trade shows or consider traveling to a national event and visiting local hardware and home centers while you’re away from your business.

“If you’re not going to trade shows, you’re not finding the newest and best products on the market,” Weemes says.

About Todd Taber

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