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A few weeks ago I received this email from Ace Hardware:

Ace graphic copy

I’m not sure if I’m more annoyed by the concept of a hardware store having a Ladies’ Night, or the fact that Ace left out the plural possessive apostrophe. At any rate, I understand the need to drum up business, and hosting special events is a great way to do that (at least in theory it is–I have no idea whether these things actually work to drive business). But why insult and risk alienating your potential female customer base by implying that they need demos and workshops in order to make use of your product? And in pink, no less! News flash: not everything aimed at women has to be pink.

Certainly there are women who need or want demos and workshops, but SO DO MEN! The Y chromosome doesn’t come encoded with specs on how to operate power tools, how to prep a wall for painting, or how to rip out and install flooring. We all have to learn these things–or pay someone to do them for us. Some of us learn from our moms and dads, some of us learn from books, and some of us learn from trial and error (not recommended).

I get periodic emails from Pottery Barn promoting in-store decorating workshops, and a nice discount on purchases made during the event. The emails are gender-neutral, making no assumptions about who might need or want tips on window treatments, furniture coordination, or color palettes. Ace could take a page out of their book.

So Ace, go ahead and have your special night of demos and workshops, but don’t position it as “for ladies.” And don’t label the top raffle prize as a “shopping spree,” which is a pejoratively female-oriented phrase. Just call it a $250 Ace gift card, or a shopping credit, or a hardware-o’rama. You can still make it an event with drinks, snacks, and gift bags–everyone likes free stuff! Just focus more on reaching out to people who might need some DIY help, regardless of gender, and I’m willing to bet you will be rewarded with new customers.

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