Selling Decorative Hardware

If you aren’t selling the jewelry, you’re leaving money on the table
By Terry Babij
October 25, 2010

“A woman getting dressed up to go out wouldn’t forget to put on nice jewelry that matches her outfit, would she,” said Madeline Brown, of Kitchen Creations of WNY in Hamburg, NY. “The same thinking should apply to selling cabinet hardware.”

Unfortunately, many kitchen and bath dealers still treat hardware as an afterthought, something to be tacked on after they have made the cabinet sale. Some still don’t handle hardware at all, selling the cabinets and leaving the customer to their own devices in securing the appropriate knobs, pulls and other items. Not only is this a disservice to the customer, it detracts from the bottom line.

“Anyone who doesn’t make hardware selection an integral part of the cabinet selling process is leaving money on the table,” said Charlie Grogg, of Scioto Kitchen Sales in Columbus, OH. “We sell roughly 400-500 sets of cabinets a year. Conservatively, we can add at least $100 to a sale by selling a hardware upgrade. In a year’s time, that’s potentially $40,000-$50,000 in extra margin. That’s enough to pay a salary.”

“It’s amazing to me that some kitchen and bath dealers don’t handle hardware and let customers go to the local big box to get it,” said Brown. “Why give money to them?”


Part of the problem has been that dealers are so focused on selling the big item –the cabinets–that once that is done, hardware becomes a minor detail to be disposed of as quickly as possible to move onto the next big sale. As mentioned above, sometimes dealers send customers somewhere else entirely to get the hardware.

A related part of the problem is functional. Hardware is typically displayed on boards in rows. The vast majority of people can’t really visualize how a knob or pull might look on the cabinet. Viewing at row after row of choices is confusing when you can’t really see the items on the cabinet or drawer.

“People buy what they see,” said Paul Frohn, of Area Kitchen Centre in Portsmouth, NH. “Unfortunately, it’s hard to really visualize what a knob or pull looks like when it’s on a board just sitting there with a bunch of others. One that looks good on the board may not work as well as another style on your particular cabinets.”

Hardware manufacturer Berenson has come up with a solution to address this problem. Through its Samplicity program, it is providing professionals with free clips along with sample orders to enable them to place hardware on cabinetry as it would appear when installed. Instead of trying to visualize how a specific knob or pull would look from just viewing it in rows on a board or through the dealer’s fingers while he/she holds it up, a customer can see it on a cabinet door or drawer. And because the hardware can easily be clipped on and off, the program opens the way to hardware upgrades by allowing customers to compare styles.
Madeline Brown demonstrates how Berenson’s Samplicity clip allows hardware to be placed on a cabinet door as it would appear when installed.

According to Frohn, “Hardware is like earrings for the kitchen. As such, you need to see how it looks on before buying, just like real earrings.”


Of course, there is more to selling hardware upgrades than just touting their visual appeal. Quality also needs to be part of the discussion. Plenty of knobs and pulls may look great, but the customer needs to know that poor construction and an inferior attaching mechanism, such as a flimsy base or the wrong screws, can lead to issues and ruin the look and functionality over time. Consequently, kitchen and bath dealers who include hardware in their offerings can provide real value for the customer by getting them to pay a little more now to avoid costly problems after they have the cabinets in their home. There is nothing worse than a beautiful set of cabinets with a shaped knob or pull that spins and always looks crooked.

Timing is important, too. “Hardware needs to come up early in the discussion,” advised Grogg. “You need to plant the seed early or you may get to the closing part of the sale and find out they have been shopping for hardware somewhere else and have already bought it.” Introducing the topic early not only increases the chance of an upgrade, it can also boost profit. Brown agrees. “Hardware is usually the last item talked about, if at all. Dealers should consider making it a bigger part of the process.”

Don’t forget to sell the jewelry. It can be a profit center and a differentiator for your business. Your customers will appreciate it and so will your bottom line.

—Terry Babij (bobby) is VP of marketing research and development at Berenson, a leading manufacturer and supplier of cabinet hardware. To contact him with questions or comments, please email him at tbabij@berenson.com.
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