Customers entering the Menards store in Fort Wayne, Ind., pass through a turnstile and immediately confront a great wall — the wall of "household essentials & more."
Just beyond the shelves of chips and cereal and sparkling cider, the wall marks an increased presence for cleaning supplies. While not exactly standard fare for your typical home improvement giant, some experts say carrying everyday items makes perfect sense in today's retail environment.
Tom Kraeutler, nationally syndicated radio host of "The Money Pit Home Improvement Show," said he was not surprised that flooring was the show's most talked-about category, edging out plumbing by one percentage point.
"It's actually been a trend we've been watching for many years," Kraeutler said. "Floors are the largest, most heavily used single surface in a house. They take a lot of wear and tear that leads to questions, and are a central decor point lending themselves to regular updating."
There is no shortage of deck materials that promise a combination of "real-wood beauty" and "durability." One of the latest entrants offers a twist on the story — it really is wood, but "it's something better," said Jim Flickinger, marketing development manager for Perennial Wood. "It's modified wood."
The image of "Vinnie" peers at customers from atop a video monitor at Costello's Ace Hardware on Long Island, its nose and fingers hanging over the screen.
"Vinnie" is named after Costello's Ace Hardware founder Vincent Costello, known to longtime customers as Vinnie.