Lady Luck

Lady Luck

For various reasons, women these days are the ‘head of household’ more than their male companions. The number of female-headed households is greater now than it has ever been, and that’s not likely to change.

Women are usually the prime decision-makers in married households. They decide when to paint the house, and determine the colour(s). And it’s mostly women who are the motivators behind kitchen or bathroom makeovers, even though the husband may wind up doing the dirty work. A high-flying CEO once described every married woman as “the president of the house”. Not a bad description!

So the smart thing to do is to determine whether your store will attract all those women out there. One American hardware man was greatly disturbed to find that a lot of wives would wait in a car while the husband came into his hardware store to shop. That certainly wasn’t the kind of impression he wanted to create with females in his trading area.

Could that be happening in your store?

If so, these are some of the questions you should ask yourself:


  • Is it as clean and attractive as it could be?
  • Are you stocking the sort of products that appeal to women?
  • Is it signed properly, identifying departments?
  • Are you devoting endcaps to impulse buys that would appeal to women?
  • Are the categories that would interest women visible, and are they then accessible?Years ago, hardware stores made housewares a major department. They even became the dominant retailers of the category in many trading areas. The rise of big-box discounters caused many retailers to downplay the category or eliminate houseware items altogether. But in the past few years, that decision has been reversed in more and more stores as they realise that attracting female customers must become an important part of their marketing strategy. Once again, bringing in merchandise that is appealing to women – like housewares, gifts, etc. – is one way to make your store more attractive to females. But it isn’t the only action that should be taken.In courting female customers, one also should consider how your staff handles them. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Does your staff look neat and clean, and are they dressed tidily?
  • Do they ever ignore women, perhaps directing their attention – and comments – to their male chaperones?
  • Do they ask how they can be of assistance, and then provide helpful advice?
  • Are they ever condescending to women in the advice they offer?


These pointers may sound simplistic, but they are questions that some American retailers say they’ve asked themselves as they try to figure out why they aren’t as successful in attracting female customers as they’d like. For hardware stores, some of those questions may not be applicable. But for home centres or timber and building material retailers, they might be more appropriate. Regardless, it’s still a worthwhile checklist for every hardware retailer.

Retailers who don’t want to stock gifts or conventional housewares can still make their stores more interesting to female customers by emphasising specific categories – cleaning supplies, for example, perhaps adding specialty cleaning products not likely to be stocked elsewhere. Cornell True Value Hardware in Eastchester, a satellite town just north of New York City, devotes a feature end to a comprehensive assortment of leather-care products. Management recognises that leather furniture needs care, as do leather car seats and leather coats, and that most supermarkets and mass merchandisers carry a limited assortment of leather-care products, if any. Good signage about the store being the town’s ‘leather-care headquarters’ is needed, too.

Knauber, a privately-owned home centre chain in Germany, does a marvellous job of presenting its decorating products in a stylish way that showcases coordinating products and gives shoppers decorating ideas. It also does it in a way that does not require a lot of space (see accompanying photo). Are there opportunities like this in your store? Other pictures accompanying this story show some of the merchandise that appeals to women. Maybe there are some ideas you can use.

Of course, you must promote your store to women too. One of the best ideas is to have a special ‘Ladies’ Night’, where demonstrations help to explain simple home repair and maintenance projects. Refreshments need not be expensive. Soft drinks, coffee or tea and some snacks are all that are needed.

Some hardware retailers invite suppliers to conduct demonstrations during their Ladies Nights, as well as using their personnel. Others hand out gifts to every woman who attends. Depending on your budget, you can keep your costs low or, alternatively, make it a memorable event. The very fact that you are conducting such an event shows that you are interested in meeting women’s needs.