DISTRIBUTORS/CO-OPS

Ace Hardware revenues up 3.6% in 2012

BY Ken Clark

Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware Corp. posted fiscal 2012 revenues of $3.8 billion, up 3.6% from the previous year. 

The co-op’s net income of $81.8 million increased 5.3% for the year.

“We are very pleased with our fiscal 2012 results as revenues and net income were both higher than last year and our plan,” said Ray Griffith, Ace CEO, who will be replaced by John Venhuizen as CEO, effective March 31.

In the fourth quarter, the company’s net income of $22.4 million was up 16.7%. Fourth-quarter total revenues were down 1.0%, while fourth-quarter wholesale merchandise revenues to comparable domestic stores declined 0.6%.

Pointing to the two major co-op transactions of recent months, Ray Griffith said Ace is better positioned “for future growth and profitability with the acquisition of Westlake Ace Hardware and the sale of our paint manufacturing assets to Valspar.”

Ace paid about $90 million for Westlake. The co-op sold its paint assets for about $45 million.

Ace added 159 new domestic stores and canceled 127 domestic stores in 2012 — a net gain of 32 stores. The co-op’s total domestic store count at the end of 2012 stood at 4,104. 

On the international front, Ace’s business decreased 10.7% in the fourth quarter, due to lower sales to retailers in the Latin America and Asia markets. In the 2011 fourth quarter, international wholesale merchandise sales increased 10.2%.

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True Value rental division honors top suppliers

BY Ken Clark

True Value Company’s rental division recently recognized its top suppliers at the hardware co-op’s Spring and Rental Market in Atlanta. 

Bobcat Co., Husqvarna BlueBird and Schwarz Supply Source earned "supplier of the year" honors in the categories of tools and equipment, lawn and garden and party/materials supplies. 

“True Value business partners play an important role in helping our retailers across the nation be successful,” said True Value president and CEO Lyle Heidemann. “We are pleased to honor these three exceptional companies for their outstanding contributions, commitment to quality and positive financial impact on our rental business.”

Each of the three companies had an increase in sales last year. In addition, they participated in True Value events, including Markets and/or Demo Days, and provided special price offerings and training, among other contributions.

“True Value is committed to our rental business and values the relationships we have with our suppliers,” said Brian Hendrickson, business manager of rental for True Value. “Our rental business partners contribute to our success.” 

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Co-op’s new campaign: “Meet the Aces”

BY Ken Clark

Ace unveiled a new series of television commercials that promote the idea that going to an Ace store is an experience similar to that of going to a neighbor’s house.

The new campaign also reintroduces, for the first time in more than 15 years, the words of Ace’s well-known jingle. Back in the 1970s, actress Connie Francis sang “Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man.” The melody has been used in Ace marketing in recent years, but not the words. Those words are back with a slight revision: “hardware folks” replaces “hardware man.”

Ace said that its consumer research showed a desire for personalized service and advice in the hardware store experience. The new commercials emphasize both strengths. The co-op describes the commercials this way: “The Meet The Aces campaign brings to life the personal, knowledgeable and helpful service every customer receives at Ace Hardware, highlighting Ace as the neighborhood helpful place where customers are treated like a neighbor, not a number.” 

Watch “Meet the Aces” here.

Ace’s John Surane, senior VP marketing, merchandising and sales for Ace Hardware, said: “With the introduction of the new campaign and relaunch of our ingle, we’re able to raise awareness of the personal attention, expertise and knowledge that can only be found at Ace Hardware.”

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How much credit should be given to the co-op business model for the success of the independent hardware and building supply dealer over the last half century?