Marketing Maintenance1 May, 2008 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
Direct response helps keep the hardware industry strong as homeowners look to dig in during a slowing real estate market.
Women: Hardware's Best Customers
Women hold a majority of the purchasing power — according to some estimates, they make 80 percent of the buying decisions in all homes — and the hardware industry is not taking that opportunity for granted. Advertising for hardware, from print to DRTV, is now skewing toward the female demographic.
Wentworth says that True Value tends to target women in its campaigns because they are "easier to reach" than the male consumer. For example, True Value uses Steve Watson, a celebrity spokesperson on cable network HGTV, in campaigns aimed at both men and women. However, Watson's good looks and hip show "Don't Sweat It," create a mostly female draw.
LENOX's "Hot Performance, Cool Mobility" print campaign offers a free die-cast LENOX replica car, like the one the company sponsors for NASCAR's Jeff Burton, with the purchase of a mobile torch system.
The female marketing focus has come to the forefront in the past five years as companies start to realize the importance of their purchasing power. "It is the role that women play in deciding which home improvement projects will be conducted, what will be purchased and where it will be purchased," says Wentworth. "In many cases, women are doing the planning, purchasing and implementation of the project work itself."
More specifically, Rob Medved, president and CEO of Burlington, Wis.-based Cannella Response Television and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board, says that DRTV has always been a female-dominated marketplace. According to a recent study conducted by Advertising Age, 23 percent of all women name watching television as their No. 1 leisure activity. Therefore, the marketing of hardware needs to appeal to women, even if the male is the end purchaser.
Wentworth says that the hardware industry remains rather steady from year to year because homes always need small improvements and maintenance work. According to the North American Retail Hardware Association/Home Center Institutes, hardware stores reported a 0.9-percent sales increase for 2006, about the same as 2005.
"While the big-box home improvement stores are impacted more dramatically by the rise and fall of the home industry, [more traditional] hardware stores don't experience the large swings in the business," says Wentworth. "Our core business is small home improvement, repair and maintenance."
So while the hardware business did not grow as aggressively as the big-box in the past decade, it has also not declined as dramatically with the recent steep drop in home building and home sales. The big-box stores have slowed down their expansion and consolidation activity — and hardware stores are learning to work with these chains by taking over and running branch stores. According to the North American Retail Hardware Association/Home Center Institutes, none of the top 10 chain stores captured any additional market share in 2006, despite opening more than 300 new stores.
Which hardware products will do well in 2008? Analysts point to those with multiple functions that make specialty projects easier for the DIY market.
Home sales are down and remodeling is gaining momentum. Home improvement product sales declined in 2007 for the first time since 1991. According to the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI), total sales fell 2 percent to $306.7 billion. However, in the long run, the market will average a 6-percent growth annually during the next four years, reaching $381 billion in 2012.