Market Trends: How Consumers Purchase Decorative Door Hardware

Selling decorative hardware can be a tough job for a locksmith shop, especially when you are competing against powerful, nearby large retailers. While locksmith shops offer some obvious advantages over large hardware retailers — like personalized customer service, product knowledge, and experienced installation — big retailers have the inventory space and ability to carry a wide range of styles, finishes, brands and accessories.

The ability of your locksmith shop to effectively sell decorative hardware depends on how willing you are to learn how to market and sell decorative hardware. Carrying decorative hardware in your shop has the potential to raise your profits and increase your customer base. Doing it right takes commitment and a little homework first.

What will it take for you to be successful? First, take some time to understand what's going on in your market. Learn about competitors, customers and be honest about your own capabilities. Once you understand the basics, begin to learn about the industry, particularly, market trends, merchandising, and styles/finishes.

Market trends include how consumers purchase door hardware, how much they spend, and from what sources they gather information in order to make their ultimate door hardware decision. Hickory Hardware, a designer and manufacturer of decorative and functional hardware, recently conducted a consumer market research study in the door and security market to better understand what consumers are looking for when they buy door locks. The report highlights three particular areas of data: what factors drive a person to purchase a lockset, their purchasing patterns, and where consumers get their information.

Purchasing Factors

As part of the survey, Hickory Hardware asked consumers to rank 16 purchasing factors that might affect their decision-making when purchasing new door hardware, with the goal of developing new products and more effective packaging. The top factors were found to be product durability/quality, security level, smooth lock operation, lifetime guarantee, and price, followed closely by ease of installation and finish/color.

The consumers were also asked to identify why they purchased or would consider purchasing new door products. The top reasons were related to safety, theft protection, and replacement. The survey's findings also found out that ease-of-installation is not one of the top purchasing factors, as most consumers are more concerned with the security benefits of their new door products rather than with installing the hardware themselves.

The research found out that most difficult part of the overall purchasing process for consumers was comparing the benefits of different products. This is an opportunity for locksmiths to offer customers a knowledgeable salesperson who can help weigh the benefits of products to suit their needs.

Purchasing Patterns

Purchasing patterns include a variety of details about how customers purchase their door hardware, but most importantly it explains how much they spend and where they shop.

The market research indicated that the median price paid for decorative front entrance handle-sets was $129, with a significant percentage of consumers purchasing an entrance set costing at least $200. In addition, the median price for keyed-knob door sets was $44, with 30 percent purchasing items costing at least $65. This information indicates that customers are often willing pay more for their door hardware if they know they are getting both style and security.

At least half of all consumers who bought door hardware shopped at Home Depot and Lowe's, with other hardware store chains and Wal-Mart following closely behind. Locksmith shops, as well as lumberyards, were preferred by approximately 8 percent of consumers. While this seems like a small percentage of the market, locksmiths still account for over $200 million in lockset sales in the United States .

Consumer Information

Consumers have numerous sources for gathering information about door hardware products. The survey found that most consumers cited friends and relatives and advice from builders and remodeling contractors as their primary sources of information. Other frequently used sources included in-store displays, in-store sales help, and TV or cable programming.

This survey supports the notion that word of mouth advertising and recommendations from past customers play a key role when customers decide where to buy their hardware, and positive recommendations can propel your shop into local success. Locksmith shops have the ability to provide knowledgeable, in-store solutions for customers, with personalized customer service and experience in installation that large retailers cannot offer. If customers leave your shop feeling satisfied and taken care of, they will tell their friends and family about the positive experience.

Locksmith Merchandising

The next point to consider is merchandising techniques, and how you can economically carry decorative hardware products in your shop.

Locksmiths can compete very similarly to showrooms that focus on kitchens, baths, and lighting products. However, you have the added benefits of more personalized service, greater product knowledge, and in-house installation options. Because locksmiths can also install the purchased hardware, the opportunity to offer customers a total package, including the door set and its installation, is available — something neither showrooms nor large retailers can offer.

Buying a display unit or merchandiser from a manufacturer to display the hardware does not require you to carry inventory and gives your customers more product options. The use of display boards, rather than catalog orders, is much more effective in selling decorative hardware to customers because it allows them to see and feel the hardware firsthand before they order it. An effective display will give your customers the information and inspiration they need to make the right decision.

When a customer requests a product or a family of products — like matching exterior and interior door hardware — you simply place an order with the manufacturer and it will generally ship to your store within two weeks. Then, you can install the hardware to complete the total package.

With so many hardware companies in the market, doing research before making a decision about what merchandiser to buy from which manufacturers can help you save money.

Manufacturers will often offer display programs or even discounts based on new customers or sales volumes, so it is worth inquiring with several manufacturers before deciding which decorative hardware brands to offer in your store. For example, Hickory Hardware currently offers a 50 percent discount on displays for new customers. It also has a program that will credit your account for the cost of the display unit, if you reach a certain volume of sales for the year — essentially giving you the display for free.

You can further reduce your costs by finding a manufacturer that includes multiple finishes for each design family on one board. That way, you can display all of the available finishes without investing in multiple boards and more merchandisers. Finding a merchandising program that minimizes the cost of your investment — whether through discounts or rebates — is essential to successfully competing when it comes to decorative hardware.

The Right Styles and Finishes

Understanding what styles and finishes are traditionally popular, as well as what is new and trendy for homes, can help you decide what products and finishes to display and offer in your shop.

Cooler, sleeker finishes, like satin nickel or Sausalito silver, are consistently popular in the hardware industry. These finishes complement a range of styles from contemporary to traditional and offer customers the ability to easily coordinate all of the hardware in their home, while varying styles from room to room.

However, cooler finishes are giving way to warmer finishes like copper and bronze. The industry has seen an increasing interest in darker finishes in recent years, including oil-rubbed bronze with an underlying bronze or copper patina, as well as the even darker espresso finish. This trend goes hand in hand with an increasing tactile need among consumers. When people feel the hardware they often want something with rustic or hand-wrought textures, and tend to use hardware products that have strong textures to create style for their home.

Manufacturers have also found that more customers are increasingly interested in whole-house coordination, particularly in the high-end market. The whole-house concept is where the exterior door locks match the hinges, which match the cabinet hardware, which match the hardware, accessories and fixtures in the bath. Manufacturers are continuing to offer collections that include interior and exterior door knobs with matching cabinet hardware and other hardware accessories.

Changes in the housing market indicate that people are staying in their homes longer and are choosing to renovate rather than move. Changing a home's door hardware is the type of project that homeowners can undertake to update their existing homes at a moderate price. Keeping up with what is new and popular, in addition to focusing on effective merchandising, personalized customer service, and product expertise, will help your shop compete in the growing market of decorative hardware.

John Pelka is vice president of marketing, Hickory Hardware. Contact Hickory Hardware at (877) 556-2918 or e-mail info@hickoryhardware.com.

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