How to Start a Hardware Store

A hardware store typically sells hand and power tools, building materials, fasteners, keys, locks, hinges, chains,electrical supplies, plumbing supplies, cleaning products, housewares, utensils, and paint. They’re designed for DIY consumers and handymen (as well as tradesmen) who need a place to source supplies for projects.

Learn how to start your own Hardware Store and whether it is the right fit for you.


Start a hardware store by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your hardware store. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the startup and ongoing costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What are the costs involved in opening a hardware store?

A small hardware store can be started for less than $100,000. Costs include rent for the building, start-up inventory, display setup, and cash reserve for staffing and labor costs. You’ll also want insurance.

Start-up inventory will likely run between $50,000 and $75,000. Rent, insurance, and other related costs will vary depending on your locale.

In general, you should not spend more than 20% to 30% of your total revenue on rent. Insurance should cover liability as well as loss of your inventory. Premiums for that insurance should make up no more than 5% to 10% of the total value of your business.

What are the ongoing expenses for a hardware store?

Ongoing expenses for this type of business include supplies, rent, utilities, and insurance. All of these costs will vary significantly depending on your location.

Who is the target market?

The business makes money by charging customers for tools and supplies. Usually the price is a fixed price for the item. In the case of items like rope or chain, the store may sell an item by the foot or priced by the yard.

Most customers pay by credit or cash. It’s important to offer customers a variety of ways to pay you as some volume customers may require credit terms in order to do business with you. Volume orders/clients also allow you to include finance charges or terms in your purchase price. It’s not uncommon for a hardware store to offer terms of 30 days to 60 days for a well-established client. However, these terms can be extended with or without interest. Most customers expect 30 days no interest.

You can establish a policy of charging interest after 30 days to collect more money from customers who need more time to pay.

How does a hardware store make money?

Ideal customers are usually DIY customers or handymen. However, a hardware store can set up trade accounts with local tradesmen to earn consistent business. For example, a store might contract with a professional carpenter to offer supplies for his business on an ongoing basis.

Clients are typically local. Advertising for a hardware store can be done one of several ways, including billboards, Yellow Page ads, pay-per-click local online ads, fliers, and email marketing to an existing customer list.

Email marketing is an underutilized strategy in this industry because most hardware stores rely on word of mouth and foot traffic. However, by emailing your existing customers on a regular basis, you can generate significantly higher revenues than relying on people randomly coming into your store when they need something.

A targeted email campaign would also allow you to better predict revenue and profit. Offer sales around holidays, for example, when business is typically slow. Entice customers with value, not discounts. Show them your own personality. Don’t make the mistake of running a discount-driven business as this only cultivates fairweather customers.

How much can you charge customers?

Hardware stores charge per inventory item. As such, there is no set price for all items in the store. When figuring out how much you should sell your items for, check your local competition or give yourself a gross margin on COGS of at least 40% (which is the industry average).

How much profit can a hardware store make?

Typical operating profit is between 1.6% and 6%, with a net profit before taxes of between 3% and 7%.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Making the business more profitable would involve supplementing your main source of income with other related services. For example, if you sell carpeting or tools and supplies for carpeting, you might partner with a local carpenter and offer installation services. You could do the same for window, door, roofing, or other major project.

Another way to make the business more profitable is to offer related products like planting or gardening supplies, which can be a supplemental source of revenue to your main product lines.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your hardware store is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.

You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

In most states, it is necessary to obtain a Hardware Store license. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Hardware Stores may also wish to look into applying for a resale certificate, which allows retailers to purchase goods intended for resale without paying sales tax.

For more information about local licenses and permits:

STEP 7: Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

How to promote & market a hardware store

Getting new customers usually involves networking with existing contacts and spreading the word through local advertising. A hardware store is highly dependent on local business from the community. So, partnering with other businesses and advertising your hardware store might help spread the word faster. For example, ask local restaurants, and other retail stores, if you can advertise in their store in exchange for a discount on products in your store.

Not only does this build goodwill in your local community, the advertising can be positioned more as a referral from the existing local business rather than paid advertising in a neutral medium, like radio or television.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Specialization and company culture are the best ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. Another way to stand out in the crowd is to set up a website, capture the names and email addresses of your customers, and send them daily DIY tips. These tips can (and probably should) come from your own personal experiences. They don’t have to be long emails, but something to keep you in the forefront of your customer’s minds so that when they need something you sell, they think of you first.

STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Start A Hardware Store In Your State

A cube with LLC printed on its sides

Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Is this Business Right For You?

This type of business is usually attractive to handymen, tradesmen, and those who enjoy home improvement activities. The owner should be able to advise customers on purchases and have experience with the products being sold in the store.

Long hours aren’t always necessary, but weekends might be. Having a flexible schedule helps, especially during the first few years of operation.

What happens during a typical day at a hardware store?

Day-to-day activities include meeting with customers on the floor and helping them source materials for their DIY projects. Checking inventory, making purchases from suppliers, and managing staff are also essential aspects of the job.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful hardware store?

Running a hardware store requires a strong business sense, but no specific degree or licensing other than local business or state licensing, if required in your state. Most hardware store owners, however, do have experience working for a hardware store, are former construction workers, contractors, handymen, or tradesmen.

What is the growth potential for a hardware store?

Hardware stores can be run as a small family-run or local shop or as a chain store. For example, Lowes, Home Depot, and other similar stores are large chain stores that operate all over the U.S. A small “mom and pop shop” may only have one location.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a hardware store?

Location matters with this type of business, especially when you’re new and unknown. If possible, try to get trade accounts open with local tradesmen to establish a baseline revenue and steady income.

How and when to build a team

Unless you are confident in your abilities to run a one-person shop, you’ll probably have to open your business with a small staff of at least 3 people. Ideally, you’ll want a person who can man the floor and help customers, someone to do bookkeeping, and a manager.

Next Steps

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