True Value points to positives

Las Vegas -- Anyone who has ever been to a trade show in Las Vegas has probably taken multiple walks through the Hilton Skywalk, where classic photographs of Las Vegas celebrities from Sinatra to Elvis stare out at attendees on their way to the convention center.

This week, many of those pictures have been temporarily replaced by star retailers who have invested in the Destination True Value program.

Destination True Value -- the co-op's flexible store format that includes consistent design and merchandise programs -- was again one of the highlighted programs here at the True Value Fall Market held at the Las Vegas Convention. Despite opening, relocating or remodeling more than 2 million sq. ft. of the Destination True Value store space since its introduction in Atlanta in 2007, CEO Lyle Heidemann said, "We feel we're not moving fast enough." Heidemann proceeded to promote the store remodel program as flexible and cost effective.

"Destination True Value is the best way to draw new customers to your store and stay competitive," he said. He also announced a sweetening of the True Value remodel loan package -- from 75% paid back over five years to a fully funded loan paid back over seven years.

During the co-op's Monday morning general session, following a musical rat pack tribute and a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, Heidemann and other True Value Co. executives promoted initiatives ranging from e-commerce to its expanded Retail Assortment Specials.

Heidemann pointed to some glimmers of hope on the macroeconomic front. If metrics aren't outright positive, many of them at least aren't as bad as a year ago. True Value stores are holding their own, he said -- down only 0.6% year to date, compared with a 1.45% decline among hardware stores in general, as measured by the Commerce Department. "While we'd all like to see more positive trends. We need to remember that last year at this time things were still getting worse, and this year all indicators are slightly better," he said.

Heidemann also stressed the importance of the "Five P's" to retail success -- place, product, price, people and promotion. For a retailer to survive, it must win in its market on two of the P's. "And to win big, retailers must win on at least four of the P's," he said.

True Value's e-commerce initiative appears to be a high priority, and it is expected to launch this fall. "Our goal is to reach all the customers who research products online before they shop in store," said Carol Wentworth, VP marketing for True Value Co. "That's 92% of all customers."

The program will allow customers to order for home delivery or ship-to-store, and more than 850 stores are signed up.

Wentworth also pointed to the importance of reaching out to new and younger customers, for whom online circulars, social media and e-mail marketing are important tools.

Organizers say the show has attracted about 10% more retail members than last year's fall market. More than 1,000 suppliers participated.

Also at the market, True Value is showing off its paint and primer in one, EasyCare Platinum, to compete in one of the fastest-growing paint categories. A battery recycling program responds to the growth of green retailing. And new light bulb planograms were on display in the electrical department.

The company also promoted its analytics tool called "Retailer Workbench," and a price comparison service called "RivalWatch," to help members better compete on price.


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