Start a hardware store by following these 10 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 guide to starting your hardware store. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
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 much can you charge customers?
- 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 important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Hardware Store Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your hardware store is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
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!
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?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
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.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
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.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
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:
- 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.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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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.
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: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Hardware Store In Your State
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.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
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:
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.