‘Here’s How’ Home Hardware is tackling market shifts

Rick McNabb reveals the factors that shaped a brand positioning the company needed for the spring rush.

Spring has sprung, the grass is greening and home owners are emerging from their long winter slumbers with tool belts fastened. This is a busy time for home repair and renovation retailers, and Home Hardware has entered the season with a new campaign and brand positioning – “Here’s How” – to tackle its shifting market.

Rick McNabb - photoRick McNabb, the retailer’s VP of marketing and sales (pictured), signed off on “Here’s How” on behalf of the company’s more than 1,000 dealers and owners. He wanted something that, yes, still positions Home Hardware as a place for friendly, knowledgeable advice, but which ticks a few other boxes as well.

Finding younger home owners

As homeowners age, they typically spend less on their home. So this marks the year the company begins its outreach to millennials “so that in five years, we’re not asking ourselves ‘What happened?’” McNabb says.

There seems to be a disagreement on how likely millennials are to buy a home (especially with real estate prices in Toronto and Vancouver making national headlines). Research from Bank of Montreal suggested just over half of millennials are already homeowners and the majority of those that remain are working towards becoming so. But a survey by HSBC suggests Canadian millennials will struggle more than their global counterparts to realize that ambition.

The research McNabb has on his desk shows “there won’t be fewer households in Canada over the next 10 years” despite whatever madness is taking place in its biggest cities. (Speaking of, while he admits his company is underrepresented downtown, urban retail is not a priority for the brand, which has a stronger presence in rural and suburban regions, especially with its larger format stores.) The upswing in housing starts in Canada certainly backs his opinion.

“In terms of real purchasing power, millennials may represent 10-15% currently, but… this will be a group of people that will have a fair bit of wealth from inheritance – primarily in real estate – from a fairly affluent baby boomer group.”

McNabb believes “Here’s How” shows Home Hardware’s competitive advantage to this group quite effectively: as much as millennials go online for advice, they eventually have to visit a retailer they trust to find the right materials. “There’s always going to be a requirement, in my view, for bricks-and-mortar knowledge and service. The millennial group may not have the same level of [repair] expertise that baby boomers have because they’ve tended to be interested in other things. The notion of service and knowledge will only get more important with this group.”

Relatedly, McNabb also has plans for positioning “Here’s How” to go after new Canadians more so than Home Hardware has done in the past. “When you drill into the percentage of home improvement customers who are new Canadians, it’s a big number of people who don’t have a connection to our 50-year-old brand.”

Address a divided customer base

Every large-scale hardware business caters to two sets of customers: do-it-yourself-ers and contractors. So aside from demonstrating how its employees are knowledgeable and helpful when well-intentioned amateurs ask for advice, “Here’s How” also has to address a professional customer who seeks affordability and convenience.

“The campaign ideas for the contractor base, which is significant for us, is going to be very powerful,” Mcnabb says. The campaign will adapt to “Here’s how we service you, here’s how we deliver for your business” for targeted trade media and digital buys.

But what about Quebec?

The one place “Here’s How” won’t appear is in Quebec. The province is a strategic priority for the retailer, but it’s be given its first original French language campaign, “Savoir. Faire.” Now that the American chain Lowe’s has acquired the Quebec-born Rona, McNabb believes there’s an opportunity for a locally owned option to surge.

“The notion of independent owners is sacred here. We’re here to build a brand and business for our dealers. We feel that as this transition is happening with Lowe’s and Rona, we’ve got a great opportunity to position Home Hardware to other [independent retailers] as they consider their futures. Banner conversion has built this company.”

Getting Quebec’s independent hardware shops to switch from Rona/Lowe’s to Home Hardware has less to do with an ad campaign than with the company’s on-the-ground team that visits local stores to sell them on becoming a Home Hardware dealer. But an increase in foot traffic driven by a Quebec-specific brand positioning will likely help get that team in the door.