Prescott’s all-in-one

Not many hardware stores maintain an active bridal registry program.

But some 100 miles south of the Grand Canyon, Prescott (Ariz.) True Value has made its combination of housewares, hardware and outdoor living a destination in its own right, with about 35 to 50 couples joining its bridal registry each year.

Prescott True Value Hardware has been a fixture in this historical north central Arizona town since 1981. Owners Tom Toth and Suzanne Andre-Springer have worked hard to build up a merchandise mix that goes beyond typical hardware store/home center fare and includes upscale small appliances that are demonstrated regularly on weekends, grilling sauces from local as well as national vendors and Southwest style furniture.

Toth believes part of the reason for the active bridal registry is that his 30,000-square-foot store offers much more personalized service than customers would receive at Target, Dillard’s or any other more traditional gift-buying venue.

“I think a lot of people register with us because we have more of a variety of everything you need for the indoors and outdoors,” he said. “And here we have the personal touch. We walk with them through the store, educating them on different products and helping them decide what might or might not fit their needs.”

This is not only about housewares—a department that measures about 3,800 square feet and includes orange juice squeezers, waffle irons, gourmet coffeemakers, glassware and an extensive collection of teas, coffees, sauces and preserves. Prescott True Value also provides an impressive list of items for the groom, including hand and power tools, weed trimmers, lawn mowers and hundreds of other possibilities.

And then there’s the 2,500-square-foot grilling department, which has become a popular option on many registries in the last few years as it has grown from offering three or four barbecue models to more than 30—along with a wide array of accessories, grilling sauces, seasonings and rubs, lava rocks, flavored smoking chips, mitts, aprons and more.

“It takes a long time to create a destination, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job with this department,” Toth said. “We have used our own ideas and have built on that with True Value Grill Zone and the concept behind it.”

Grill Zone—True Value’s proprietary brand—offers a wide range of products, including grill covers, cooking tools and cookbooks. Beginning this year, True Value stores are also carrying a Weber Grill line that introduces copper into its color mix, which already includes black, blue and green. Toth holds regular in-store grilling demonstrations for his customers to show them the subtle differences between product lines and grill features.

“We want to make sure that we give our customers the personal attention they’re looking for so they can make the right decision on which grill will work best for their needs,” said Toth, who has four full-time staff members devoted to this department during the busiest season, from May to September. “People come in, and we’re able to walk them through every aspect of every grill. We get a lot of sales that way.”

Prescott also partners with a local contractor to put grill islands into customers’ homes, as well as flagstone patios and built-in outdoor fireplaces. There are a series of vignettes at the front of the store featuring outdoor furniture sets, patio offerings, barbecues and a variety of accessories. It’s all designed to capitalize on the growing outdoor living trend, enhanced in Arizona by the mild year-round climate.

Housewares, on the other hand, have suffered in recent years against competition from local department stores and specialty kitchen and bath stores. Toth has managed to boost sales about 10 percent this year, he says, by bringing in even more unique products and demonstrating them in the store each weekend. “That’s definitely boosted sales,” he noted.

He has also helped drive more traffic into the store by upgrading the lawn and garden area, which takes up about 3,500 square feet of space but generates a larger percentage in total revenues. “I attribute this a lot to the education of the people on the sales floor,” he said. “They know about irrigation and lawn fertilization, and believe it or not, we’ve benefited from specializing in bird seed and feeders—there’s a great deal of interest in those things here.”