What Home Improvement Stores Won’t Really Tell You

They may be bigger, but they are not necessarily better

Summer is when many people spend plenty of time working on home improvement projects. That inevitably means many will also be spending plenty of time and money at the big-box stores that have come to dominate the home-improvement industry. While many retail experts thought the big box home improvement chains might spell the demise of independent hardware stores, it appears the mom-and-pops are holding their own against the giants.

It is now predicted that small and medium hardware stores will see slightly better annual growth at 2% in the years ahead than the home improvement giants. While the big-box chains can often offer an extensive selection of items and low pricing, they can’t always compete in terms of personal service or the ability for shoppers to get in and out of the stores quickly and easily. Hardware stores tend “to be more welcoming to customers.”

Your worst day becomes their best quarter

By any measure, superstorm Sandy was one of the most horrific weather events in recent memory, responsible for more than $50 billion in damages. But to the big-box home improvement chains, the October 2012 storm was a boon for business because of the need for rebuilding supplies that ensued.

The same profiting-from-disaster situation has been true after other major weather events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And it happens every time a hurricane, heavy rains, winter storms, tornadoes, floods, and the like occurs. Not that the home-improvement chains should be faulted; it’s simply the nature of the business. It’s the nature of other businesses, too, like for instance, auto body repair shops.

Want to score a good deal? Home improvement stores don’t want you to ask

There are plenty of ways to score a deal at home improvement stores, from taking advantage of weekly sales to tapping the price match policies that both chains have in place. But perhaps one of the best savings tools is something more associated with flea markets, garage sales and used-car lots: Good old-fashioned haggling.

Shopping experts and retail analysts say customers can sometimes negotiate a discount, especially on big-ticket items like appliances or on larger orders, provided they’re willing to bargain with sales associates and managers. For the record, the chains don’t advertise the fact they can be flexible on pricing, and their policy is not to make this fact known. As much as can be possible, they don’t want to haggle on pricing unless the customer initiates it.

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