DISTRIBUTORS/CO-OPS

Ace establishes panel of Design Experts

BY Ken Clark

Ace Hardware launched its first-ever panel of Design Experts.

The panel, comprised of three interior designers from different regions across the United States, will provide color and design inspiration for Ace customers.

A big part of the service is to help shoppers through the paint-selection journey. “At Ace, we know paint is personal, it’s not just about mixing a gallon of paint,” said Mary Rice, president and general manager, Ace Paint. “It’s about guiding and validating the customer so that the color they choose is one they will love and feel comfortable with in their home — and that all starts with inspiration.”

Ace’s Design Experts bring more than 30 years of combined experience to the panel, specializing in color and the transformative power it has in design. They are: 

• Katie Reynolds, of Dallas, is the owner and principal designer for Lilli Design LLC, an interior design firm, which specializes in residential design and unique nursery and children’s rooms. Reynolds’ strongest area of expertise is color and using it to create unique spaces around the home.

• Julie Richard, of Boston, is the owner and principal designer for Shelter Interior Design, a full-service design firm specializing in residential and small hospitality interiors. She works closely with her clients to create fresh environments and often recommends adding color to a room for a quick, affordable update.

• Nathan Fischer, of Orange County, Calif., is the owner and principal designer for Stiles Fischer Interior Design, a full-service interior design, decorating and architectural firm. He views color as the key element within each room and believes that adding a pop of color to a wall, ceiling or banister can make the most dramatic and cost effective change within the home. 

Among the experts’ home color picks for the fall are cobalt, navy and royal blue as well as browns with gray undertones.

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Suburb offers tax incentive for Ace owner

BY Brae Canlen

Civic leaders in Barrington, Ill., 32 miles northwest of Chicago, approved an economic incentive and special use permit sought by an applicant for an Ace Hardware store, according to an article in the Chicago Daily Herald. The agreement allows the hardware store to recoup up to $13,000 per year in municipal sales tax for its first five years. Anything above that would be paid to the village as usual.

The town is unaccustomed to granting economic incentives, but local residents have put a hardware store at the top of their list of desired new businesses, according to an economic development official. The town has been without a hardware store since one closed several years ago.

The new Ace Hardware will occupy an existing building that is approximately 10,000 sq. ft. It is expected to open in November.

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Ace paints a picture of improvement

BY Ken Clark

Chicago — Ace Hardware supplied several growth-minded statistics to members during the co-op’s Fall Market general session, which was heavy on strategy initiatives and inspirational messages for store owners.

The paint department figured heavily in the Thursday morning presentation. So did payment systems, logistics and — as one would expect — the concept of customer service as delivered by a friendly store. 

One of the big new tools in the works is an instant-savings Ace Rewards card, which senior VP merchandising John Surane described as “our most impactful promotional tool next year.” It’s expected to launch in January 2013. 

With instant savings, customers won’t have to deal with mail-in or e-rebates. Also, the new system through Epicor will allow a national lookup of Ace Rewards members, so customers who forget their card can still be served.

The Ace Rewards card has 23 million users, he said, delivering about a 13% greater profit than non-cardholder transactions.

The general session included a balcony scene from an actor playing “Beach house,” a color and self-described “soul mate” from the co-op’s Clark + Kensington paint marketing campaign. Describing the campaign, Surane said: “We had do to something different to break through the clutter.”

Another strategy was to offer free paint. During seven free-paint Saturdays, Ace gave away 1 million trials. The events grew 15% more store transactions for the entire store, he said, while increasing several other metrics. “We plan to sustain our attack in 2013,” Surane added. 

Ace showed statistics that its liquid paint market-share grew from 4% to 5.3% since 2009. And after a slow first year, the co-op is on pace to reach its five-year-plan target of 8% market share.

Ace Hardware COO John Venhuizen told the co-op members: “You are owners of a company that is on the move.”

It’s a good thing, too, he said, as competitors such as Amazon.com are rising in the home improvement market, and Home Depot said it’s spending more than $2 billion on technology and store improvements. 

The COO supported his case for the effectiveness of corporate programs by showing that Best in Class Ace members have a much higher adoption of programs, such as Ace Rewards, Craftsman merchandise sets and light bulb resets.

Venhuizen pointed to some examples from the wholesale performance side of the business, too:

• A 97.1% fill rate, showing a 70-basis point improvement from a year ago;
• $90 million lower costs through the SAP-powered transportation management system; and
• Seven-consecutive years of reduction in labor hours per 1,000 line orders.

The Ace convention held here at McCormick Place runs though Aug. 18. 

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