Hardware stores retrofit for women
By Gina Kabat
Dianne Reese and daughter Melissa display a colorful selection of paint combinations at their store in New Holstein. With new lighting and a bolder look, more attention has been given to their displays.

The ever present, friendly neighborhood hardware store keeps getting a makeover.

Must be something about a woman’s touch that prompts corporations to give shelves a little elbow grease.

It’s not your grandfather’s hardware store anymore. From large corporations to small town, family run businesses, now more than ever they understand women make more of the decisions relating to the home. From board rooms across the country to rooms full of boards and other construction materials, information related to exactly who is doing all of the shopping apparently seems to be the conduit.

Company wide, demographics for True Value Hardware Company indicate an increase each year in consumer purchasing for the DIY type projects, many of which are purchases made by women. Now, the aisles are set to accommodate shoppers’ tendencies. How one will look for an item, browse, even consider options has all been carefully researched and evaluated. Signage is brighter, livelier and displayed independent from other areas.

DIY becomes fashionable

Additionally, Do-It-Yourself has become a fashion business, a lot more than a saying, with even top fashion designers creating wallpapers and specific paint colors. Many stores are set up to complete a project, such as a bathroom or living room. Not just the paint but also the matching wallpaper, rug, furniture, pictures and accessories. Some would say completing the task from nuts to bolts.

“In the past five years alone I’ve noticed a larger amount of women doing things for themselves and the way business has changed as a whole. Business is changing so fast and moving forward that we need to move with the time and adapting to keep current customers while at the same time trying to attract new customers,” Melissa Reese, co-owner of her store in New Holstein, stated.

Melissa has been an integral part of the process. Not only does she have a feel for her customer base at present, she is familiar with the history of her store. Her parents Dianne and Ron began their tenure in the business 25 years ago. “The store looks and feels completely different than before. It has a softer feel with nicer colors and a better layout and better flow,” she added while traveling through the paint selections. According to Melissa, in years past, it was much more cluttered and now much neater, more organized, giving everything a “home.” “Women like a neat and clean shopping experience to mostly make their home environment theirs.”

Thanks to the many do-it-yourself, home decorating, interior design shows and countless other media and internet sites that show step-by-step instructions, now more than ever people are tackling many household projects after a trip to the hardware store. Weekend warriors? Perhaps.

Greater independence

“I believe the biggest reason women are DIY’ers is they are more independent than in years past. Women are purchasing their own homes and trying projects by themselves. The Home and Garden Network with all of the remodeling and decorating shows has been huge, along with the internet actually giving detailed directions on how you can do a project from start to finish,” Melissa added.

They have women of all ages shopping in the store. “The older generation still shops our greeting card selection for the nice value cards and the rest seem to like our patio furniture, lawn and garden and gift items. Women of all ages shop our expanded paint department with a vast selection of colors and paints,” Melissa said. “The internet has been huge with Pinterest and decorating shows giving inspiration and actually letting the women know they are capable of doing projects.”

To add to the mixture, more children are growing up in an environment of non-stereotypical roles. Take for instance a gal named Wendy on a popular children’s cartoon called “Bob the Builder.” Both characters carry tool belts, hard hats and a positive attitude toward repairing just about anything. They both empathically chant a well-known phrase, “Can we fix it? Yes, we can!”

“I have some women in every couple of years buying paint for the same room! We even have the tweeners that are shopping the hardware store for our large colored duct tape selection,” Melissa said of the multigenerational age demographics which patronize her store. Can more and more people do it themselves? You betcha and they won’t need a lot of duct tape to hold it all together either. Unless, of course, it has zebra prints or comes in a shade of “hot mess” emerald green.

Colored or print duct tape is just one of the new product lines brought into the store. Crafters love the stuff for making trendy wallets, purses, book covers and specialized frames. Duct tape, known for being the end-all be-all of holding something together, has a new life in the hands of imaginative crafters. It just has to be pretty and more pleasing to the eye.

Changes coming rapidly

According to Melissa, a lot of the merchandise is changing at a rapid pace. “I think in years past the merchandise for the most part stayed the same with the same model, and now trying to keep up with trends and the new items out in the marketplace,” she added. It used to be silver or gold were the only two options for cupboard door knobs, her mother

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