Ace Hardware plays offense in Denver

John Surane at the Ace General Session

Denver -- The air was thick with sports metaphors during Ace Hardware's General Session of the 2011 Denver Fall Convention & Exhibits. 

Ace's top marketing and merchandising executives mixed retail strategies with quotes from Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi during a presentation in which they described the top 10 plays for winning at retail. The session even included half-time highlights of power tools and football touchdowns.

One of the top plays for Ace retailers, according to the co-op, is to get on board with Clark + Kensington, Ace's new entrant in the premium paint category. "Clark + Kensington is the cornerstone to revitalizing our paint business," said Ken Goodgame, Ace's general merchandise manager. "It's easy to apply, easy to sell. It's one of the greatest product launches ever in Ace history."

That statement is based partly on dealer acceptance of Clark + Kensington. So far, 1,500 stores have signed up to participate. The product will have a national launch in March, and the co-op is looking to have more than 2,500 stores participating. 

John Surane, senior VP consumer marketing, merchandising and paint, said Craftsman outdoor power equipment and hand and power tools are two other top plays for retailers. 

The 1,000 stores up and running with Craftsman hand and power tools have seen category sales increase 14% and gross profit increase 6%, he said. 

The relaunch of in 2012 will be a significant opportunity for Ace retailers, according to the merchants. 

Other "top plays," as described by the Ace merchants, include:

• Participating in the five national advertising events planned for 2012;
• Fully integrated line reviews;
• The Ace Rewards Visa, which offers a $100 statement credit for consumers who sign up for the card; 
• Live goods and lawn and garden opportunities; and
• Promotion of "own the mile," and the concept that Ace stores are important businesses to the community they serve. 

Explaining the "own the mile" play, Jeff Gooding, Ace's director of consumer marketing, said: "There is a growing movement among consumers to shop local. This [program] sets you apart from the boxes with compelling reasons to shop your store. They don't have them. You do."

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