Do it Best members who attended the spring market in Indianapolis last May were greeted in the lobby by a display of environmentally friendly products under the enviroLINK banner. By putting this new program front and center, Do it Best management was sending a very clear message to its retailers: Green living is in, and it’s important to address this trend in your stores.
The promotion of green products is already standard operating procedure. The three major hardware co-ops and Orgill, as well as Home Depot, Lowe’s and just about all other home improvement retailers have come out with green programs in the last couple of years.
To a great extent, it has been a matter of taking products already in the warehouse—everything from CFL bulbs, to compost toilets, to air purifiers—and putting them under a green umbrella to make environmentally products easier to identify.
“I think members, like the rest of the population, are being bombarded by green,” said Lauren Wagner, supervisor, category management for Do it Best. “Everything they pick up, everything they touch or read has some mention of green—how to buy green products, how to make your home more green. I don‘t think anyone can get away from this.”
That’s why Do it Best has made enviroLINK a priority, not only at the markets but through information available on
“Each week, we feature a different environmentally friendly product [on the Web site] so we can keep it in front of our members,” Wagner said. “They can read through and find out what’s happening and what products have been added to the list.”
And that list is growing rapidly. What started with 1,500 skus when the program rolled out in May now includes more than 1,900 products—with more skus being added weekly. In many cases, Do it Best vendors are aware of the enviroLINK initiative and alert the co-op to new products. Plus, Wagner and her staff are always on the lookout for appropriate items, she said.
There are five criteria associated with enviroLINK, and all products in the program meet at least one of them:
Saves energy and water;
Promotes a safe and healthy home; and
Is Energy Star-qualified
Energy-saving products in the area of weatherization and insulation are among the most popular, as consumers continue to look for ways to reduce the cost of heating their homes. Other hot categories include organic lawn and garden care and household cleaners, particularly the Clorox Green Works line. But the program extends far beyond the obvious. The enviroLINK list also includes reel mowers, rain barrels, doormats made of recycled mulch and counter-tops made from natural stone or recycled glass.
“It’s not just your typical household cleanser or CFL bulb. There’s a whole lot more to it,” Wagner said.
In terms of marketing the products, Do it Best recommends that retailers stay away from the store-within-a-store concept and merchandise green and non-green products side by side so the consumer can make the decision at the shelf level.
And the fact that hardware stores are known for service makes them an ideal destination for environmentally friendly products, according to Wagner.
“Because there are so many products out there that people label as green, it can be confusing with the various standards and definitions. So they look to their local hardware store guy to help them out with that,” she said. “I think it’s the level of service they’ve come to expect from an independent.”
Do it Best said most members are carrying some green products, and there are a few that are going full steam ahead with the concept. For example, Kellogg & Lawrence in Katonah, N.Y., has an extensive program that includes reel mowers, recycling bins, rain barrels and organic lawn products. Owners Bart and Diana Tyler are active in their community’s initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by the year 2020, and they also work with community groups on CFL bulb promotions.
All environmentally friendly products in the 6,000-square-foot store are identified with a green dot, and the Tylers have worked with Do it Best’s ad department to create an environmentally friendly circular. While Bart Tyler praises Do it Best’s efforts in this area, he hopes the co-op will delve even further into the world of green products.
“I think right now they’re focusing on vendors they already work with, rather than aggressively going after companies offering more progressive green products,” he said. “Do it Best may well be a leader in this area, but we’d love to see them do even more.”
EnviroLINK will be a major area of focus at the October market, where members will be encouraged to grab a copy of the “key program brochure.” This is an educational piece that explains the program, the five criteria used to determine if a product is indeed green and how to find the list of skus online.
“ It’s a piece the member can take home from the market and see if it’s some-thing they might want to implement in their store,” Wagner said. “Do it Best is trying to be responsive, not only to community concerns but environmental concerns as well. EnviroLINK is helping establish our members as being environmentally friendly.”