How a Home-grown Purpose-driven Brand Has Shielded Home Hardware from the Competition

In 1994, when Walmart first migrated north to small town Canada, many locals resented the big box bully’s arrival and vowed to boycott the retail behemoth.

So Walmart did what any corporate giant would do: they bought people’s forgiveness and greased away their guilt. They poured millions into local community hockey programs: building new rinks, sponsoring teams and promoting tournaments. Meanwhile local, independent businesses shut their doors.

The same year, Home Depot opened the first of what are now 182 stores across Canada. Their arrival had the same devastating effect on privately owned hardware stores.  

But Home Depot was doubly troublesome because they were stealing both everyday customers and larger contractors, many of whom chose to abandon their trade and go work for the chain.

Hundreds of small-town hardware stores shuttered their doors in the wake of more and more network chains entering the market.

With one exception.

Home Hardware Flourishes in the Face of Fierce Competition

Home Hardware, with its network of small, independently owned stores, should have wilted in the shadows of the giant US brands. But they not only survived; they have flourished.

At the heart of their success was the resolve to remain true to their roots and their original sense of purpose – to be the local hometown expert and neighbour, with the independence to run a store like an entrepreneur.

That’s why Home Hardware remains a privately owned wholesale company, with each dealer acting as a single shareholder with equally weighted vote. Even the Home Hardware head office is still located in the small town of St. Jacobs, Ontario, where it originally started in the early 1900’s.

Local Ownership, Community Responsibility

Whether their stores are on the main street of a small rural town, or in the middle of suburban sprawl in one of Canada’s biggest cities, Home Hardware strives to retain that neighbourhood destination feel.

That sense of local responsibility is even incorporated into their hiring practices, which are intended to reflect the community they serve – regardless of origins, orientation, or physical or mental ability.

For years, the brand has lived up to its neighbourly expert reputation with its online ‘Tips of the Trade’ tutorials, on everything from tools, to paint, to big renovations.

Staying Relevant with a Fresh Campaign

Most recently, the brand took an even bolder step by adopting the double H of its name and giving it an additional, brave new meaning: Here’s How.

The Here’s How campaign is intended to better position the company’s knowledge and expertise to a younger audience, without leaving its small-town manners behind.

In the increasingly homogenized world of big box retail, Home Hardware is a quirky — and refreshing — exception.  And that’s testament to its owner/operator entrepreneurial model. its determination to remain independent, and its purpose-driven mission to be the helpful, expert neighbour in local communities, big or small.

Inspired by Home Hardware’s example, and want to hone a social purpose strategy that separates you from your competition? Read all about “How to Create a Social Purpose” brand here.

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