The Return Of Gifts And Homewares

The corporate office of a large hardware group recently issued a communiqué to its members stating that “we all must do more to court women shoppers as they control the buying decisions at home.” Most retailers who understand this realise that the best way to attract more women into stores is to stock more products that they want. Hardware stores don’t stock apparel and fashion accessories so no product category does this better than gifts and homewares. Retailers across all segments are beginning to acknowledge this re-emerging trend, and gifts and homewares are prominently displayed everywhere from chemists to newsagents to nurseries. However, knowing exactly what gifts and homewares to throw into the product mix may prove challenging, particularly for ‘outsiders’ like hardware store owners accustomed to catering to a more traditional clientele. Nonetheless, in the face of growing competition and spiraling operating costs, the inherently high margins available in the gifts and homewares category makes it an attractive option, which – combined with clever and inviting merchandising – makes for a category that keeps your female customers inside the store for longer.

Matthew Bauman is one such hardware retailer who can attest to the benefits of this category. As the owner of Goondiwindi Hardware Supplies, four hours west of Brisbane, he says that selling gift and homeware products takes considerable energy but that it’s well worth the extra effort. “We consistently see 10% sales growth every year in the gift category, and it has more than offset the downturn in traditional hardware sales which remain soft due to the ongoing drought,” he says. In addition to increasing overall revenue, expanding beyond customary hardware products has allowed him to spread the risk when sales to the traditional customer segment slow down.

Hillary Wheeler is another who has enjoyed the benefits of stocking gifts and homewares. She and her husband co-own Gracemere Hardware in Gracemere, less than ten kilometers out of Rockhampton. After they started adding gift products to their store mix three years ago the category has since grown to 15% of their business – and it remains on a strong upward curve. “I just love having gift products in our store,” says Hillary. “First, the margins are so much better than our hardware lines. Second, they brighten up the store and keep it fresh, because new gift products appear so much more often than hardware. Third, gifts and housewares keep more customers coming in, especially women, and they tend to stay longer and end up buying more.”

Despite the advantages expressed above, it will be difficult at first to lessen the perceived risk that is venturing into new and untried product areas. However, there are excellent resources in the form of gift and homewares trade shows, and they are used by an increasingly broad segment of retailers. By visiting these shows on a regular basis, not only will you discover a full range of possible new products for your store, but by studying the supplier stands, you will learn the latest and best merchandising techniques. Most importantly, you will come away with a newfound confidence on how best to court women customers.

By George Lancaster, Gift and Homewares Australia (GHA). GHA is an association of suppliers and retailers that owns and manages the Home & Giving Fairs, the largest collections of gifts and homewares in Australia. The event is held, in Sydney in February and September and in Melbourne in August. Contact George on (02) 9763 3222 or email george@nullagha.com.au for further information.