Ads on the Asphalt

Mention the word “advertising” to most hardware store operators, and the immediate thought is “How much will it cost?”


But what if stores could harness the power of advertising to make money? Just look at all the stores out there with massive land, building and wall areas going to waste—with not an ad to be seen! Are there opportunities for storeowners to sell some of their premium, high-exposure spaces to eager suppliers and distributors? And are there any non-hardware markets that might benefit from promotions in and around bustling, wholesome hardware outlets?

These are all hypothetical questions that warrant some analysis. Certainly, it is worth investigating the potential for ad revenue to offset or even exceed the normal advertising costs associated with running a store.

According to Hardware Store Statistics from BizStats.com (See www.bizstats.com/hardware.htm), most stores in the USA allocate about 1% of their budgets to advertising costs. The figures vary from 0.7% for medium-sized stores to 1.4% for smaller businesses, and most Australian outlets adhere to similar ratios. These expenses—even in smaller stores—are measured in the tens of thousands of dollars per annum, so imagine the difference to a business that ad sales could make!

“Best Coffee” and “Crazy Cushions”
Consider the following scenario:
A customer drives into the local hardware store precinct and pulls into a parking space. The asphalt space boasts a three-metre painted logo of a major hand tool supplier. Attached to the metal safety railing at the head of the parking space is a banner promoting a local car repair shop.


The customer locks the car, walks towards the store and grabs a trolley advertising “Nurseries R Us”, and then proceeds through the threshold past posters showcasing an upcoming garden show.

The expansive wall above the power tools department bears the familiar symbol of a major electricity supplier, and just to the side is a hoarding near the garden chemicals display touting the benefits of “More Poo” fertiliser. Naturally, the storeowner would have to be careful not to offend any rival suppliers.

The outdoor garden pond and fountain displays are complemented by a generous Water Authority drop sign advising customers to use water responsibly, while soft background music is interrupted periodically by announcements and jingles from high-profile suppliers.

An in-store café is decked out in exotic “Best Coffee” decals, leading neatly to outdoor furniture and barbecues nestled between placards featuring “Crazy Cushions” stickers and posters for Caribbean holidays.

Not far away, the fasteners department stands out thanks to the cardboard merchandisers for plastic storage cases and household tidy bins. A mobile phone company ad nearby features the tagline: “Perfect for calling plumbers at any time of the day.”

Upon choosing the desired products, the customer makes a bee-line for the checkout and leans against the counter, which is bordered by strip ads that read: “Bob’s Lawn Edging Services”.

The transaction takes place and the clerk insists that the customer is welcome to keep the “Fast-Moving Stationery” pen used to sign the docket…the receipt, of course, is overprinted with “Ethical Bank Inc” symbols.

The recyclable carry bag, upon close inspection, advocates the merits of using “Tizzy Recycled Paper”.

As mentioned, these are speculative ideas that may or may not be appropriate for all businesses, and professional advertising gurus will surely pick holes in some or all of such ad placements.

But marketing is a fluid medium and all avenues should be explored in the interests of shoring up store profitability.

By John Power