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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.
Who is this business right for?
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 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.
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.
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 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 steps to start a hardware store?
Once you're ready to start your hardware store, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your hardware store is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your hardware store keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Establish a 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.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I 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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
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.
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).
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.
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.