Made to order: Do it Best’s store design approach: ‘One size does not fit all’

It’s been a year since Do it Best Corp. launched the Signature Store Design program at the 2006 fall market in Indianapolis, and there are about 160 store projects underway, with a handful set to open later this fall.

Signature Store Design—the result of a two-year collaboration between Do it Best and Dayton, Ohio-based Design Forum—offers a three-pronged approach to store design that takes into account the co-op’s different types of members. The program was borne out of the idea that the old one-size-fits-all Do it Center format was getting stale, and the co-op needed something to help its members fight the influence of the big boxes and adjust to changing demographics in many areas of the country.

“We knew we needed a ‘one-size-doesn’t-fit-all’ approach not only in terms of assortment, but Do it Best branding as well,” said Bill Zielke, vp-marketing and international development. “What we came back with were three distinct branding tiers, each promoting a more modern, integrated shopping experience.”

First is the Do it Center, which is a standardized approach for members who are heavily affiliated with the Do it Best name; second is the co-branded format, which sees value in the larger entity but takes advantage of the store’s history; and third is member-branded, which uses the member’s name exclusively but still allows him the advantages of Do it Best products and pricing.

One of the earliest Do it Best owners to jump on board with Signature Store Design was Brian Secor, whose Secor Lumber store was founded in 1939 and is well-established in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

Secor—with a lumberyard in Savannah, N.Y., and a small hardware store in Ontario, N.Y.—was looking to open a combination format in a new location. He found his answer in Do it Best’s co-branded format, which uses old store photos in the signage and message boards, “conveying our history to our customers,” he said. “I thought it was a nice way to bring out our individuality and place in the community.”

At the same time, Secor wanted the brand recognition of the Do it Best name, and he was anxious to use their designs in his new strip mall location in Newark, N.Y. The store measures 25,000 square feet, with 15,000 square feet of hardware and rental and a 10,000-square-foot home design center with windows, doors, floor coverings, millwork and kitchen and bath supplies. In addition, Secor wanted to include an extensive lawn and garden section in the blueprint.

“Their design people were available to us as a Signature Store and helped us design the store,” he said. “They helped us create that allocation of space for lawn and garden. If we had wanted to emphasize power tools, they would have helped us with that. Whereas things are pre-canned in terms of signage, it’s very flexible when it comes to departments and what you want.”

Secor secured the new space in January, and with the help he received from Do it Best, was able to set up the store in three months and hold his grand opening in early April. So far, the customer reaction has been very positive, he said.

“I don’t know if you can measure it so much from a sales-per-square-foot standpoint, but it’s an extremely well put-together program that gives you instant credibility. At the same time, it gives you a very nice image to put forth in the community.”

According to Brian Kimball, Do it Best’s store development and real estate manager, 19 other Signature Stores are set to open in the coming months, including locations in Springfield, Mo., Cincinnati and foreign locations like Honduras and Panama. Another 100 Do it Best members are expected to come online with the program in 2008.

“One member might want to develop lawn and garden, another may be 90 percent contractor and might want to zero in on that. Or there might be another store that wants to change formats,” Kimball said. “There’s no way one program would work for all of our stores.”