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The Dawn of a New Day for Independents

Messages emerging from the International Hardware Fair in Cologne, Germany, today shed light on potential changes occurring in the retail environment that could prove positive for independent home improvement retailers across the world.

John Herbert, general secretary of the European DIY-Retail Association, stood in front of a packed room of delegates with representatives from associations such as the North American Retail Hardware Association, International Hardware Association and the European DIY-Retail Association, distributors and retailers from around the world.

Herbert, who has held prominent retail positions around the globe, including a stint with Home Depot, used his experience to share his impressions on the future of the industry. Judging by his forecast, independent retailers have a lot to look forward to.

While Hebert cautioned about the increased challenges online purchasing will create for brick-and-mortar business models, he noted many current consumer trends including the desire for meaningful emotional connections; smaller, more intimate store formats; and better quality products will likely give independent retailers a competitive advantage moving into the future.

“Quality brand names­—both national and private label—continue to gain sales share despite bad economies,” he says, “and trends such as Made in the U.S., Made in Britain and Buy Local can help all retailers differentiate their assortments and gain more consumer loyalty and business.”

Herbert continued his positive message by noting an increase in the Do-It-For-Me consumer, who would prefer to hire out certain home improvement projects due to time, skill or financial constraints. He encouraged the retailers in the room to reevaluate opportunities this trend could offer in installation services and contractor references.

While Herbert’s message was overwhelmingly positive, he shared a few words of caution in the areas of social media and sustainability.

“Consumers are fanatical about what you do and they share it all online through social formats,” he says. “Additionally, the media will make it nearly impossible for the home improvement channels—or any retailer—to ignore consumer concerns regarding sustainability.”

Following Hebert’s presentation, Hardware Retailing editors hit the show floor to find evidence of Hebert’s forecast. Not only did booths of sustainable solutions, Made in the USA product options and improved design and product packaging supported his projections, manufacturer testimonials did as well.

“Business has been really good. I’ve been really pleased with the show the past couple days,” says Pat Nielsen, global sales and marketing manager at Glue Dots, an American manufacturer of adhesive solutions. “We launched our product last year in the U.S. and came out here to help strengthen that brand and product message. We get a broad reach of potential buyers out here at this show, and the U.S. retailers we’ve had meetings with have met the brand campaign with positive responses.”

About Jaime Koch

Jaime Koch was the managing editor of Hardware Retailing Magazine. Jaime regularly traveled around the country and internationally to visit with retailers and share their stories. Jaime was honored by the American Society of Business Publishers for Editorial Excellence.

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