DISTRIBUTORS/CO-OPS

Ace breaks ground for Ohio distribution center

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday drew representatives from Ace and local business leaders to the site of a future retail support center in West Jefferson, Ohio.

The co-op expects the 500,000-sq.-ft. facility to be completed in July 2014. The facility will essentially replace an older facility currently operating in Toledo.

“Ace is pleased to break ground on this state-of-the-art facility,” said Rick Whitson, VP retail support, Ace Hardware Corp. “Our new Retail Support Center in West Jefferson will play an integral part in Ace’s overall supply chain, carrying as many as 16,000 different products to supply hundreds of Ace retailers and, in turn, serve thousands of consumers.”

The co-op operates 14 retail support centers.

The West Jefferson facility will serve Ace Hardware retail locations throughout Ohio, parts of Michigan, Eastern Indiana and Northern Kentucky. It will also employ approximately 100 Ace team members locally.

The warehouse will have the capability to expand by more than 280,000 sq. ft. to meet future growth needs. The facility will be furnished with 84 dock doors, as well as power equipment that will run by hydrogen fuel cell technology. 

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Ace Hardware reports sales gains in Q2

BY HBSDealer Staff

Pointing to sales gains in virtually every department, Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware Corp. reported second-quarter revenue growth of 9.7% — to $1.74 billion from $1.07 billion. Net income increased to $42.3 million, compared with net income of $14.9 million in the same quarter last year.

CEO John Venhuizen said the co-op is pleased with the results so far in 2013. "Sales increased in virtually every department with significant growth at both wholesale and retail from our Discovery Edge, Level 3 merchandising re-sets and branding inititatives," he said. 

The second quarter also included a charge of $6.2 million related to the closing costs of the co-op’s Retail Support Center in Toledo, Ohio. 

Across the Ace network, same-store retail sales were up 5.3% for the quarter, with momentum gaining in June (up 6.1%) and July (up 9.8%). 

The company’s income statement includes a line for retail revenues — $77.7 million for the three months ended June 29. This line tracks the company’s December 2012 acquisition of Westlake Ace Hardware, which operates 86 stores in the Midwest. Same-store sales at these Ace-owned stores were down 3.4%, which the co-op contributed to a cold spring that limited lawn and garden sales.

On the wholesale side, total wholesale revenues were $1.1 billion, up 2.4%, as compared to the prior year. The increase would have been 4.4%, when including wholesale revenues to WHI, the indirect owner of the Westlake chain.

The Ace co-op added 34 new domestic stores and canceled 19 in the second quarter. The total domestic store tally stands at 4,121 as of June 29. 

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Valspar patiently awaits profits from Ace deal

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Paint giant Valspar has every intention of profiting from its move to acquire the Ace Hardware private-label paint business, it just hasn’t happened yet.

Valspar executives walked analysts through the plan during the company’s third-quarter conference call. The analysts seemed highly interested in Valspar’s seven-month-old relationship with Ace. 

"The rollout of our new private label and branded programs with Ace Hardware are on plan," CEO Gary Hendrickson said. "We will start shipping Valspar-branded paints to Ace during the fourth quarter, and we are currently tracking ahead of our internal placement targets for this initiative." 

Late last year, Ace and Minneapolis-based Valspar worked out a long-term deal, under which Valspar will manufacture and supply Ace-branded paint products to Ace dealers. The companies also announced that Valspar had acquired Ace Hardware’s paint manufacturing assets, including two manufacturing facilities located near Chicago. 

During this week’s conference call, Hendrickson said the deal is not making money yet on the private label side of the Ace deal, as Valspar works to retool the facilities and infrastructure that deliver the paint. But regardless of the branded Valspar business side of the transaction, the private-label Ace deal will eventually result in positive metrics for the paint company, he said. 

"We didn’t sell our souls to the devil on the private-label business to win a contract on the branded business," Hendrickson told investors.

Hendrickson was asked to update exactly how many Ace stores had the Valspar brand, but he declined to talk about it and will continue to remain silent on the question "probably for a couple of quarters," he said. 

CFO James L. Muehlbauer said Valspar remained "very confident" in the model for its Ace business. "When we get that work done this year, we’ll have a cost structure that allows us to make a nice margin on the private-label business," he said.

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