New Orleans — The city was packed with tourists, and the show floor of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center was alive with commerce. There were all the usual suspects, but Orgill's Spring Dealer Market still contained the promise of many new things to talk about.
For one: a "Nerve Center" that greets attendees when they step onto the floor, bringing an increasingly consolidated customer experience to the market. These one-stop shops allow dealers to access experts in every department ranging from retail pricing to store planning. This year, a customer service booth has joined the setup.
The product showcases were brimming with videos customers can actually use, and the Hardware 101 program was ready to help retailers identify missing categories and assortments. Multiple vendors had been pulled together to make the bagged goods program a reality, allowing dealers to better compete with the big boxes through drop shipping, and on-demand custom POP signs were available to help move big-ticket items.
But the biggest showstopper, as it generally has been since it was implemented in the fall of 2009, was the model hardware store.
"We utilize the concept stores as an idea origination tool for our customers," said Phillip Walker, senior VP merchandising services. "We're not saying this 10,000 sq. ft. store should be the exact store our customers should implement, because every market's different."
This particular store (dubbed Walnut Grove Hardware & Supply) was designed for a market with an unmistakable farm & ranch profile. Like the model stores that came before it, Walnut Grove was the end result of micromarketing techniques and market-driven research that amounts to a business plan that customers can use.
Orgill has been using these concept stores as a marketing tool for potential dealer-customers, but they have also served as veritable retail laboratories: implementing inline assortments of various niches the moment they become trendy: staycations; the backyard as an extended living room; beekeeping, for example.
"We spend a tremendous amount of time in retail in stores across the U.S., and also online, observing the latest trends," Walker said. "If we're doing our job, it's going to be seen here before it's written about online. That's our intent with these concept stores, to try to be on the cutting edge of our industry."
Here are just a few of the features that were new or noteworthy in this latest incarnation:
A dollar program aimed at increasing transaction size without disrupting the overall assortment mix. This impulse buys section is strategically positioned near the entrance, and it banks on the notion that the average customer will pick up more than nine dollar items.
A smart home endcap positioned front and center to encourage hardline retailers to embrace the burgeoning trend: "We wanted to make sure we had this front and center, with an order form to buy the product and the fixture and all the signage, so they can implement this without disruption to their inline assortment to get into the category, because they really need to embrace it," Walker said.
A uniform point-of-purchase package in plumbing and electrical that can be custom-branded to deliver a consistent POP package (this just launched in January). "In the past, if you shopped other stores, you had different-sized POP, and it's very inconsistent," Walker added.
An expanded Canadian outpost, otherwise known as the Maple Ridge Home Centre. This alternate model store represents the best of what Orgill Canada has to offer in a 9,600-sq.-ft. home center format. It's expanded a bit since the last market to incorporate a lighting center, rental department and a bit more in terms of lawn and garden.
- What's more, Orgill is now a full-service distributor in Canada, whereas before, it was limited to a few categories. The move was announced in October 2015, but the organization is now fully integrated as Orgill Canada.