Beyond the Toolbox: Adapting Home Improvement Stores to Customers, Inventories, and Theft Prevention.
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Beyond the toolbox: adapting home improvement stores to new customers, diverse inventories, and smarter theft prevention

Date: Feb 02 2024
Read Time: 4 minutes

The origins of today’s hardware store can be traced all the way back to the Middle Ages when they were known as ironmongers. Back then, the principal inventory consisted of iron and horseshoes, and they were primarily frequented only by professional craftsmen. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution when it began to evolve into what we commonly recognize as the modern-day hardware store. Thanks to factors like technological advancements and a global pandemic, the hardware industry is undergoing another significant shift, transitioning from a focus on just hardware to a massive domain encompassing all things home improvement. 

With great change comes great opportunity and even greater challenges. What was once a place only for professional tradesmen is now a destination for “weekend warriors”, DIYers, and everyone in between. The growth in customers has brough not just new money, but new problems in asset protection and inventory management. Walking the tightrope between hardware store and home improvement powerhouse has proven to be quite an uphill battle with the home improvement industry experiencing record theft. Let’s briefly delve into the rise of DIY, rampant shoplifting, and how to protect your assets.  

The “honey do” list starts getting done 

The DIY or “do-it-yourself” mentality took off in the 1950’s and 60’s for a plethora of reasons including a shorter work week, advertising efforts, and the notion that shared projects bring families together. Its resurgence in 2020 was sparked by COVID-19 when we were all sequestered at home for nearly two years. We had nothing but time on our hands, so that dusty “Honey Do” list started getting checked off one by one. The urge to get more done was further exacerbated by the rise in social media and sites like Pinterest where people could share restoration projects, bathroom makeovers, and kitchen remodels.  

27 Sep 1953, Sun San Angelo Standard-Times (San Angelo, Texas)

Why DIY is here to stay: 

  • Rising costs across all industries, including labor 
  • A sense of accomplishment when completing a project 
  • Lack of individuality and quality in builder-grade homes and materials 
  • A resurgence in restoration vs. remodeling 

As recently as 2020, over 70% of DIYers said they’d rather have more money to spend on high-quality materials as opposed to labor.  

More inventory, more problems 

The Industrial Revolution led ironmongers to diversify their inventory to include items like lumber, electrical supplies, and plumbing materials. Similarly, the rise in general home improvement has been the catalyst for expanding inventory even further to include appliances, gardening tools, cleaning supplies and even home décor like area rugs, sofas, bedding, and home décor. This metamorphosis into a one-stop-shop is great for the average homeowner but has proven to be a nightmare for loss prevention departments worldwide.  

The increased foot traffic has created hurdles in securing popular and often costly merchandise. Common home improvement projects usually demand a wide range of materials that can accumulate in cost. Power tools like drills are the most popular items for theft and in some cases account for half of a hardware store’s inventory shrink.  

Most popular hardware items for theft  

  • Power tools 
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Copper wiring and pipes
  • Paint and spray paint 
  • Plumbing fixtures 
Keeping customers in and thieves out 

Major hardware retailers like The Home Depot are hoping for federal legislation and organized efforts to stop theft in their stores, but that can be years in the making. In the meantime, there are more practical methods to protect merchandise at the store level like implementing reliable retail merchandise security that doesn’t impede the customer shopping experience.  

Since home improvement retailers typically earn more from in-store sales compared to online, partly because such purchases are often time-sensitive and customers prefer immediate access, products like InVue Zips are ideal for securing a variety of power tools. They provide security while still enabling customer interaction with the products. For larger tools, stock room inventory, cages and more, Padlocks can be the perfect solution. Regardless of what you’re protecting, InVue’s rigorously tested security solutions can secure any merchandise in any retail setting.  

Watch our free webinar to gain detailed insight on safeguarding merchandise and serving customers effectively, especially as we approach the busy spring season—a peak time for home improvement stores! 

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