Market topic: better home decor

INDIANAPOLIS. —A veteran of hardware store retailing, Steve Davitt appreciates the nuts-and-bolts role of the hardware store in the community. But for real in-store drawing power, he points to an emerging area—home decor.

“Sure, we like power tools, but the most exciting part of the store is the decor part,” said Davitt, the general manager of Channel Islands Hardware in Port Hueneme, Calif. “If you want to add excitement, this is the stuff that pops.”

Davitt is part of a growing trend of hardware stores and lumberyards expanding into kitchen and bath design and installation—one part of the larger category of home decor. At the Do it Best May Market in Indianapolis, Davitt—a former manager of a Home Depot store—helped lead a discussion of the ways home channel companies can develop home decor business. Two of the key takeaways: there is tremendous business potential in the kitchen and bath business, and relationships and people are the basis of any success to be gained.

Among the ideas shared:

Know the competition. This can be achieved by shopping the competition, or asking customers about the competition.

Recruit creatively. The panelists pointed to the customer base or college art departments as possible sources of design professionals.

Recognize the importance of the female customer. “From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., it’s a male dominated environment,” said David Knecht, outside sales for Gillman Home Center in Oxford, Ohio. “But after 9, it’s the women who are in there buying duct tape.”

In recent years, the Do it Best Home Decor program has been a growing emphasis at the co-op, according to CEO Bob Taylor. The business takes members into what Taylor called “a whole project realm of selling” that starts with either the kitchen or bath and then expands to include flooring and other related projects.

“It’s a different selling process,” Taylor told Home Channel News. “Members have to understand it and commit the expertise and the skill set in the store to really achieve their goals.”

The idea for those who do it right, he said, is not to merely b