True Value's Chicago Reunion

The Chicago-based co-op unveils new programs and new plans.

The "Inspiration Realized" color center on display in McCormick Place.

Chicago -- True Value Company welcomed dealers to its Fall Reunion here with a host of new programs, new products and new plans for growth.

Among the topics covered during a fast-paced General Session on Monday evening were a new-and-improved marketing strategy, a colorful “Inspiration Realized” paint center program, and the value of remodeling.

And as parts of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico – where the co-op recently added 15 new stores -- continue to suffer from hurricane damage, True Value executives pointed to the team’s efforts for working together in tough times. Chairman Brent Burger described the distribution of 20,000 5-gallon gas cans and 30,000 cases of bottled water. More than 3,000 generators moved out of the company’s Corsicana and Atlanta DCs, and the transportation team made more than 300 emergency deliveries.

“We are True Value Strong,” Burger said, introducing a video highlighting how Spring (Texas) True Value Hardware and McCoy’s Building Supply weathered the storms.

"We have a plan that’s working and we won’t let anything distract us.”

The General Session also addressed and dismissed what executives referred to as "chatter" and “recent speculation” over reports of the co-op seeking strategic options that include a sale.

“We’ve all heard the chatter in the industry, and while some of our competitors are focused on that, first and foremost we are focused on our strategy,” said True Value CEO John Hartmann.  He added the company has a plan “to help you thrive as independent retailers right now and for decades to come. We have a plan that’s working and we won’t let anything distract us.”

(See Burger's comments here.)

The general session featured brief presentations from Tim Mills, senior VP of growth, Heath Ashenfelter, VP of merchandising; Abhinav Shukla, senior VP and COO; and for the first time -- senior VP of marketing David Elliott, who described a big change in the marketing arena and a shift to a more digital and more local approach. 

The purpose of marketing, Elliott explained, is to create a profitable customer. And toward that end, and after a review of customer profiles, the co-op intends to broaden its marketing efforts to target not only millenials, but all generations -- an announcement that generated applause from the audience of dealers. More applause came  when Elliott announced the co-op was ending its National Ad Fee -- which is currently about 1.4% of warehouse purchases. The new program, kicking off in April, is described as more relevant, customizable and responsive than previous efforts.

The company's "Inspiration Realized" color center, one of the highlights on the show floor, is described as a modular program that fits large and small stores. It features a "paint bar" consulting and mixing area, 1,200 colors and an inspiration area ( see photo above). The co-op is promoting the roll out of the program with a subsidy of about 70% of the cost. 

The program was cited as an example of ways the co-op makes life easy for the retailer. "Any discussion about an easy way to improve the performance and profitability of your stores has to include paint," said COO Shukla.

Tim Mills hammered on the value of remodeling. He rolled out examples of stores that saw double-digit growth after a renovation: Town and Country True Value of Morris, Minn.; True Value on 17th in Washington, D.C.; and Mayville (Wisc.) True Value Home & Hardware among them.

Around McCormick Place numerous banners proclaimed "The Value of Now" -- the general theme of the Fall Reunion. The event runs through Wednesday, Sept. 27. 

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