Showroom Seminar: Hardware and Accessories Help Boost Sales in a Slumping Economy
July 2nd, 2008

July-August 2008

By Kathleen Furore

May was not a good month for Home Depot. That’s when the world’s largest home improvement chain announced it would close 15 stores, axe 1,300 jobs, and nix plans to open 50 new stores. It was the third round of Home Depot job cuts this year, and the company warned more could follow if the economy doesn’t improve.

The economic downturn is clearly impacting the home building and remodeling industries. New home construction dropped 27 percent during the first quarter of 2008, while homeowner spending for home improvement activity is expected to decline by an annual rate of 4.8 percent through the end of 2008, the Leading Indicator for Remodeling Activity (LIRA) says.

“It looks unlikely that we will see any improvement in the remodeling market until 2009,” Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, says. “Currently, the second half of this year is shaping up to be weaker than the first half.”

It’s not a pretty picture to say the least
But there are bright spots for tile dealers willing to adjust their inventories in ways that will attract budget-conscious consumers. Adding and merchandising decorative hardware and accessories is one option, since customers who are postponing high-end bath and kitchen renovations are looking for products that will enhance their homes without breaking the bank. And it’s an added “plus” if those items can be used in do-it-yourself projects, industry experts say.

“DIY has become a very hot trend due to the economy,” Kathleen Schomburg, assistant to Eric Herbst, the CEO at Croydex USA (a division of FFI Corporate), reports. The company’s Twist N Lock products—which include easy-to-mount bins, robe hooks, soap dishes, shelves, towel rings and toilet paper holders–are examples of items that give customers a cost-effective way to update baths and kitchens without the added cost of a contractor.

John Pelka, vice president of marketing for Hickory Hardware, a company that designs and manufacturers decorative hardware for a variety of applications, agrees: Do-it-yourself projects are on the rise and give tile dealers a way to capture sales in today’s very tight market.

“Changing the decorative hardware is an easy weekend project that homeowners can take on that makes a drastic difference in the home’s appearance,” Pelka explains, noting that hardware “can be an excellent vehicle to attract new customers.”

The Importance of Price
While cost has always been a consideration, price is more important than ever for customers who want to upgrade baths and kitchens today. That’s where hardware and accessories come into play. The majority of Hickory Hardware’s products, for example, sell for between $3 and $6.

“With most kitchens averaging about 20 to 30 knobs or pulls, a homeowner could update all the hardware in their kitchen for under $150, so the option to invest in new hardware is affordable for those looking to redecorate and update rather than taking on a large remodel,” Pelka notes.

Even customers who are investing in larger tile projects are concerned about cost. Companies including Wheeler Tile & Company of Santa Barbara and Innovative Tile Systems in Burnsville, Minn., offer add-on items that give customers affordable ways to create decorator looks and give tiledealers opportunities to boost sales.

Wheeler’s QuickShelf, a recessed shelf that adds valuable storage space for shampoo, shave and shower items without the loss of elbow room or floor space, is a cost-effective way to add a high-end custom upgrade feature to any tiled area, Owner Dan Wheeler, who designed the product, says. Priced at $39.95, the wall insert is an all-in-one waterproof liner and tile form that can simply be nailed in place. Tile is then installed directly to the product. “QuickShelf is a terrific upgrade item for tile dealers…it gives them the opportunity to realize additional profits from the sale of added trim tile, decorative accent or field tile, as well as installation materials for every bath project they are already supplying,” Wheeler says.

The Integral Slant Base™ (ISB) from Innovative Tile Systems—a product that won “Best New Product of the Year 2008” at the Surfaces 2008 Convention in Las Vegas—is popular with homeowners seeking an affordable but distinctive, ‘high end’ appearance in their kitchens and baths. “ISB can be less expensive than some tile cove base pieces on the market,” Erik Forston, vice president of sales, says. “It also answers the questions, ‘Do you have matching sanitary base for this tile?’ or ‘Do you have matching cove base pieces for this tile? Dealers no longer need to lose sales due to the lack of matching base.”

Marketing Matters
Including hardware and accessories in your product lineup isn’t enough to guarantee added profits. As Pelka stresses, “Success is dependent upon an integrated marketing program that targets customers who may be remodeling, who have just bought a new home, who are in the process of selling their home, or even customers who are just looking for something special for the holidays or the new season.”

Most manufacturers—Wheeler and Hickory Hardware among them—have products and programs that help tile dealers offer a wide hardware selection in a way that allows them to compete effectively with showrooms that focus on kitchens, baths, and lighting products. Wheeler, for example, provides partially tiled showroom displays to QuickShelf distributors so they can visually introduce the recessed shelf to their customers.

“By purchasing a display unit or merchandiser to display the hardware, the dealer is not required to carry inventory in the store, but is able to give customers many different product options,” Pelka explains. “The use of display boards, rather than catalogs, is often more effective in selling decorative hardware to customers because it allows them to see and feel the hardware firsthand before they order it.”

Product Roundup
Here’s a handful of products are among the myriad hardware and accessory items available to tile dealers nationwide:

CroydexUSA’s Twist N Lock Suction-Fix Bathroom and Kitchen Accessories
Featured on the HGTV Kitchen and Bath Special, these affordable, durable and easy-to-install accessories require no drills, screws or glue to install.
Phone: 866-237-2882 or 203-234-2882

Hickory Hardware’s Basaltic Cabinet Hardware
This collection of cabinet knobs has the rustic look and feel of antiqued, weather-distressed iron, simplistic styling and the rough texture of volcanic rock. All pieces are available in a range of sizes and finishes and complement rustic and traditional home décor.
Phone: (877) 556-2918

Innovative Tile Systems’ Integral Slant Base™
Few tile manufacturers produce a sanitary base to match their product, and many that are produced can be costly and may not guarantee a perfect match. The ISB is an affordable ceramic sanitary base that creates a hygienic method for treating floor to wall tile transitions and can match the materials of any room.
Phone: 952-224-9141

Wheeler Tile & Company of Santa Barbara’s QuickShelf Wall Inserts
Made of tough, textured ABS plastic, the QuickShelf is easy to use with any size or type of tile or stone. The shelf—available in square and rectangular sizes—is compatible with all installation systems and techniques, and can be installed over tile backerboards.
Phone: 800-965-9501

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