As popular retail spokespersons and commentators such as Mary Portas in her Review in 2011 have correctly observed retail spending in the high street has been falling for some time as have the number of town centre stores still trading.
Large out of town stores and retail parks, a terrible recession, the continued rise of online retailing and a number of other related factors have all made the environment more treacherous for the town centres traditional hardware store.
For those still toughing it out the quality of their help, knowledge, advice and service are some of the things that help them to compete but meanwhile the hardware market online now contains many specialists who focus successfully on one segment of the market.
A shift in the way we shop, our trust in todays extremely convenient online shops and the ability of an online shop to provide high quality information in the form of text, videos and technical support telephone lines have all helped the cause of the online hardware specialist.
Competition levels in the search engines for general hardware retail sites plus the need to segment and focus in order to achieve visibility have been one driving feature in the rise of specialist online retailers who focus on one segment hardware market.
James Gumersell of specialist online door handle retailers simplydoorhandles.co.uk sheds light on the experience of focusing on and specialising in one market segment.
I should say first that weve got 20 years experience in the door handle industry and a physical showroom in Huddersfield so, like many online specialist hardware retailers, we gained plenty of experience in the real offline world first.
As a specialist we are able to offers customers a huge choice of the latest door handles and door knobs. Customers like this, they also like the fact that because we dont have lots of physical shops to pay for we can offer very good prices. We despatch within 24 hours, and the free delivery (under 75) seems to help outweigh the short wait for customers to receive their door handles says James.
The online shop format also means that we can display lots of useful information for customers, they can shop at a time thats convenient for them, and we offer technical advice over the phone. The new way of shopping for items like door handles is actually incredibly convenient and easy for customers. The fact that we are specialists also seems to be something thats important to customers they put a value on and trust in that says James.