Hardware stores sell a range of products for professional contractors and the “do-it-yourself” market, all depending on the community and the size of the store. A traditional independent hardware store sells tools and accessories, nails, screws and fasteners, chain and rope, electrical and plumbing fixtures, paints and small household appliances like toasters and blenders. A store in an oceanfront community might sell rigging for sailboats; one in cattle country specialized tools for repairing barbed wire. Many hardware stores have knowledgeable salespeople who can answer questions about home maintenance and help their customers buy the right tools.
Larger hardware stores may position themselves as “home centers” and offer lumber and building supplies, larger appliances, outdoor furniture, lamps, plants and garden supplies. The Home Depot and Lowe’s are the two largest national chains of home centers. Both these chains engage in heavy national advertising and maintain teams of knowledgeable employees, although given the huge size of these centers employee assistance is not always easy to come by. Many American families focus around constant home improvement, however, and know their way around these stores rather well.
To help them compete with the large home centers, thousands of smaller hardware stores around the United States associate themselves with one of the major hardware store retail cooperatives, including Do It Best, True Value Hardware and Ace Hardware. In most cases, the local hardware store uses the cooperative’s name in conjunction with the individual store name, as in “Smith’s True Value Hardware” or “Middletown Ace Hardware.” The local store owns shares in the cooperative, purchases inventory from the cooperative, coordinates advertising with the cooperative, and benefits from the national brand image of the cooperative.
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