And the winner of the Reimagine Retail contest is...

Las Vegas -- Innovation is not just for the big boxes. And that's the defining message that shaped the announcement of the winner of the Reimagine Retail contest, a challenge to independents to dream up a compelling future for their store.

We do have a general sense of what most retailers would improve. Polling results pointed to 87% tech, 75% employees, training and retention, 68% to store design, and 65% to new products.

To enter, retailers had to submit a 500 word (or less) essay explaining how they would improve their store with $100,000. And out of what National Hardware Show VP Rich Russo said were more than 100 entries, only one would walk away with the money to put where their mouth is.

As it happens, the winner was Caribou Jack's Trading Co in Soda Springs, Idaho. 

The store won over the judging panel with its vision of building an in-store cafe for hosting grilling and cooking events, and for free use by community organizations. In addition, the company will build an area for growing the produce used in the cafe. The company will also develop a mobile app to help groups coordinate events in the store. 

Other finalists included:

Debbie Supply, Inc. in East Rochester, New York
K Hardware Stores in Idaho Falls, Idaho
La Grange Park Ace Hardware in La Grange Park, Illinois
Logan Hardware in Washington, D.C.
Mark's Supply in Frackville/Shenandoah, Pennsylvania
Parry's in Hamilton, New York
Sandpoint Super Drug in Sandpoint, Idaho
Shaw Hardware Store Inc. in Plattsmouth, Nebraska
Woods Hardware in Cincinnati, Ohio

Russo added that retailers who didn't get a chance to make a compelling case will have another opportunity next year. "This is not just a one-year thing," he said. "We want to continue this."

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