stores

Bay Area hardware stores battle through a crazy year

In San Francisco, the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn have hit many local businesses like a ton of bricks. But for a select few sectors, business has been booming, from the grocery stores that saw mobs of panic-buyers to the gardening centers overwhelmed by bored quarantiners starting victory gardens.

So, what about our neighborhood hardware stores, trustworthy bastions of power tools and cleaning supplies? Are they crazy-busy from the legions of people taking on home improvement projects, or struggling to survive? Four of our favorite local spots told us how they’re doing, from enduring multiple burglaries to seeing soaring sales on unexpected items.

Cliff’s Variety


While business has generally been OK in 2020 at Cliff’s Variety in the Castro, general manager Terry Asten Bennett said they’re forecasting a rough fourth quarter. A lot of the store’s sales come from gifts, souvenirs and seasonal items, and with Halloween effectively canceled and the December holidays up for debate, it could be a tough three months. Sales in September were trending 10% down, when they had only been 5% down over the summer months.

“It’s a balancing act,” Asten Bennett said. “I’m so grateful we got to be open this whole time but it still really hurts. Normally our fourth quarter carries us. We’ve forecasted a bad Halloween.”

While certain department’s sales are up — she said jigsaw puzzle sales have grown 300% — she said the lack of tourists buying gifts, souvenirs and novelty items is hurting their bottom line. She also said school supply sales have been down as kids stay home for distance learning. Most of all, Asten Bennett said she thinks some people are still just scared to go to stores and are choosing online shopping over a traditional retail experience. “We’re also getting really hurt by the Amazon

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Here’s what people are buying at home goods, home improvement stores and more | Food + Living

COVID-19 is shaping shopping behavior. That’s been bad news for retailers on many fronts — but certainly not all. Here’s a sampling some of the items shoppers have been snapping up for their homes.


Bon appetit

The Shops at Rockvale, located off Route 30 in East Lampeter Township, have seen a lower traffic count than usual over the past few months, says manager Kristi Burkholder. But sales reports show that those shoppers who are there are buying more things — especially if those things are related to eating at home, says Burkholder.

“The kitchen stores are out of control,” she says.

Foodie-focused business is also brisk at Zest! in Lititz. There, manager Elizabeth Elia says shoppers are increasingly investing in quality basics like kitchen scales. Pizza stones also are selling. So is anything having to do with bread.

“They’re getting serious about baking. One item that is selling like crazy now is the Danish bread whisk,” Elia says of the circular tool used for denser doughs and batters. “We can’t keep them in stock.”



Our food writer samples 12 varieties of Lancaster County apples


Going big

Tina Ator, owner of Olde Mill House Shoppes in Lancaster, says she has noticed a renewed interest in larger furniture pieces and lighting rather than smaller, “knick-knack-type” purchases.

Customers are looking ahead to the future too, specifically to Christmas gifts and holiday items. Ator says customers started asking her to display those in September.

“They don’t know what is going to happen, so they want to be prepared,” she says. “Some of them want to get it now while they are out and about.”



Gothic Revival touches grace houses, churches around Lancaster [architecture column, photos]


Project materials

From paint to tools, people are buying for do-it-yourself projects. Second-quarter revenue was up 30% over the same period last year at Lowe’s and 23% at Home Depot.

“Most of us are forced to

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Ammar’s completes multimillion-dollar renovation across stores

APPAREL and merchandise outfit Ammar’s has completed a series of major renovations across all three stores at a cost of approximately $60 million.

Speaking with the Business Observer, Michael Ammar Jr, owner of the retail chain and popular department stores, said that the completion of the projects coincides well with his initial plan of having the renovations done at a time when the company also celebrates its 60th anniversary.

“We spent about $60 million on the upgrades, with The Village being the majority of it. We actually were able to do this store [Sovereign] on a shoestring budget and come up with the identical layout, having had the experience of working on the other stores previously,” he told the Business

Observer, noting that while the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the process, they were grateful to have completed the much-needed renovations.

The upgrades, which see the stores having extended line selections, new flooring, larger cashing areas and better infrastructural amenities, are such which the proud owner said will help the business to boost its customer service and shopping experience as well as bring the stores up to world-class standards.

“It was a complete redo— we created a swimwear section, a larger lingerie section and a larger ladies’ section, including a jeans shop in the men’s department. We made the store just a lot more user-friendly. With COVID in mind we made the walkways wider and we created a much larger area at the cash counters so that people can line up safely,” he said.

The latest and final phase of the project was completed last month at the Liguanea branch, inside the busy Sovereign Centre. The other locations at Mall and Village plazas in Half-Way-Tree and the King Street branch in downtown Kingston were previously upgraded, with each

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4 Stocks to Tap Rising Demand in Retail Discount Stores Space

The COVID-19 outbreak has brought about a major shift in consumers’ buying behavior and spending pattern. With the pandemic taking a toll on employment and household income, consumers are left with no option but to curtail spending. Definitely, measures undertaken to support households and the resumption of economic activities provided some relief but consumers’ hunt for better bargains continue.

Under the current circumstances, people have been showing a preference for discount stores for essentials and other household needs. A differentiated product range resonates well with customers’ spending habits. No wonder, the strategy to sell products at discounted prices has helped industry players expand customer base amid the pandemic.

That said, industry participants have been focusing on deepening engagements with consumers, expanding merchandise assortments, and enhancing digital and data analytics capabilities. They have been making strategic investments to provide consumers fast, convenient and safe shopping experience, be it offline or online.

Keeping in mind consumers’ product preferences and growing inclination toward online shopping, thanks to social distancing and greater stay at-home trends, discount players have been replenishing shelves with in-demand merchandise, and expanding delivery options — curbside pickup or ship-to-home orders — and contactless payment solutions. The companies have also been investing in renovation, improved checkouts and mobile point-of-sale capabilities to keep stores relevant.

It comes as no surprise that discount retailers have succeeded in creating a niche in the retail space. Here we have highlighted four discount retailers that have been gaining from coronavirus-led spike in demand.

4 Prominent Players

Target Corporation TGT: This general merchandise retailer has been making investments to enhance omni-channel capacities, come up with new brands, and remodel or refurbish stores to cater to consumer demand and behavior in the new normal. Markedly, this Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) company witnessed sturdy market-share gains in all

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DIY Boom Continues to Drive Demand for Home Improvement Stores

Home improvement stores are on track to permanently land in the essential services or daily needs category, which retail investors have focused on for years. This year, home improvement activity has increased dramatically, and 40% of consumers have indicated that they plan to continue home improvement projects beyond the recession, according to research from the NPD Group. The activity has driven home improvement store sales up 11% this year.

During the pandemic, home improvement stores have become the second fastest growing retail segment in both brick-and-mortar and online sales. In lawn and garden, tools, paint, kitchen and bath and hardware segments, each saw a double-digit increase in both online and in-store purchases. The average shopping trip also increased 10% compared to the average trip in 2019.

Home Depot Versus Lowe’s

Placer.ai, which also looked closely at shopping trends in the major home improvement brands, found that Lowe’s saw an early surge in sales in April, up 14.1% for the month. Home Depot on the other hand, didn’t see an increase in sales until May, when activity jumped 26%. In the same month, Lowe’s continued to outperform its competitor, seeing a 46.6% increase in sales. Lowe’s has continued to outperform Home Depot through the pandemic, although both have seen significant increased in activity and the gap narrowed. Notably, significant sales growth continued in June and July, well after home improvements’ normal peak season.

A Long Term Trend

Weekly visits have continued to show strong sales, all the way through early August, the most recent data available. According to Placer.ai, this indicates that the home improvement trend could be long term, as the NPD Group data also suggests. The activity has been driven in part by the fact that people are staying at home more, as well as by homeowners that may

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