DISTRIBUTORS/CO-OPS

Ace Hardware plans Re-Distribution Center in Virginia

BY Ken Clark

Ace Hardware Corp. is planning a 336,000-sq.-ft. Import Re-Distribution Center (RDC) in Suffolk, Va.

Ace will be the first tenant to occupy space in the 900-acre CenterPoint Intermodal Center, located at 1006 CenterPoint Dr., which can accommodate up to 5.8 million sq. ft. of industrial facilities. The new Import RDC will receive international goods arriving at the Port of Virginia.

“We investigated several cities along the Gulf and East Coasts to find the ideal location that will allow us to lower costs and provide optimum service to our retailers,” said Lori Bossmann, senior VP supply chain and retail support for Ace. “Suffolk is only 30 miles from the Port of Virginia, which is the most modern port in the United States. We also have the capabilities to expand our new facility up to 500,000 sq. ft. in order to accommodate future needs and anticipated growth.”

The co-op said the new facility — scheduled for completion May 1, 2012 — will reduce import and logistics costs and provide an even higher level of service to East Coast retailers, making it possible for Ace stores to more effectively respond to consumer needs dictated by hurricanes and other weather emergencies in the region. 

Ace executives considered the Panamax — which expands the Panama Canal and is scheduled for completion in 2014 — an added incentive to selecting the location. Panamax will allow larger container vessels easier access to East Coast ports, further lowering land-transportation costs.

Ace Hardware already operates an 800,000-sq.-ft. Retail Support Center (RSC) in Prince George, Va., which will continue to operate as usual. This RSC receives and warehouses product shipments from thousands of manufacturers. The products are sorted to fill customized orders received from retailers and then shipped to those stores.

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True Value’s top merchant points to winners

BY Ken Clark

With the message that relevant, up-to-date assortments are the lifeblood of successful hardware retailers, True Value Co.’s Mike Clark, senior VP and chief merchandising officer, identified winners during his presentation at the co-op’s Fall Market in Philadelphia.

Clark also introduced the Chicago-based co-op’s initial Farm & Ranch assortments.

True Value’s farm and ranch offerings range from towing, jacks, oil and air filters, electric fencing, baler twine and Miller plastic buckets, to name a few.

"We intend to continue expansion into this vital market to provide better merchandising support for our retailers who are in the farm and ranch business," he said. The goal is to provide more options for members, and allow them the flexibility to order from the warehouse, while avoiding the order minimums typical of other farm-and-ranch distributors.

Chief among his advice was to power up. Retailers that have adopted the Chicago-based co-op’s Master Mechanic portable power tool assortments are selling 45% more power tools than those retailers that have not, he said. With the exclusive brand, he encouraged members to "get back in the power business."

Introduced as a new line at a previous market, faucets are delivering year-over-year comparable-sales increases — up year-to-date 9% in dollars and 9.6% in units at retail, he said. 

Grills also present an opportunity, particularly on the low end. "You may not know this, but 73% of all gas grills are sold below $300," Clark said. "Our Grill Zone grills provide you an awesome product, terrific margin and your opportunity to capture share of that under-$300 business."

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Ideas emerge at True Value University event

BY Ken Clark

During the True Value’s Fall Market in Philadelphia, a day spent on Retail Best Practices produced some actionable advice, according to organizers.

Some 500 True Value members attended the Retail Best Practices Conference (RBPC) and generated some actionable, take-home ideas.

Among the most popular ideas, as determined by those who participated, was a hardware happy hour — an after-work promotional period to attract commuters on their way home. (A possible slogan for such an event, according to one retailer: "Get hammered.") 

Other ideas were gathered and collected from breakout groups throughout the day. They included Facebook Friday, Twitter Thursday and a Mother’s Day planters program that allows customers to arrange to grow their own customized gifts in the store.

Participants also concluded that propane sales and service is something that would benefit most hardware store retailers.

The event, organized by the Chicago-based co-op’s True Value University team, ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Thursday, the day before its Fall Market opened. The RBPC included some modifications this year designed to increase interaction.

A shift from monolog to dialog was one of the keys, said Lori Birkey, director of True Value University. "The retailers come to network with each other," she said. "They come to get tactical information that’s real-world tested that they can go back and apply right away. And they also come to get informal networking with the management team."

The event required careful planning, including assigned seating, to encourage friends and family to split up and share ideas with members of similar store size, urbanicity and years of experience.

"It worked," said Katie Stangel, manager of True Value University.

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