A brighter outlook for mom and pops

In a slight reversal from the dominant narrative concerning big-box stores and their smaller competitors, independent hardware stores are seeing a bit of a revival across the United States as the economic outlook begins to brighten for the industry.

According to an IBISWorld report released in February, industry revenue has declined at an annualized rate of -0.4% over the last five years. However, IBISWorld estimates that revenue will finally trend toward the positive in 2013 at a growth rate of 2.0%, in addition to a 16.5% jump in consumer sentiment.

The report tempered the optimism a little by cautioning that though revenues were expected to grow and lift the tides of all boats, the overall number of firms operating in the industry is still expected to fall due to competition from big-box stores.

"The recovering housing market and increased spending on home improvement projects will help boost industry demand," said IBISWorld analyst Sean Windle. "Revenue growth and profit will remain low, however, because of continuing competition from home improvement stores and online retailers."

Despite the enduring problems this level of competit