DISTRIBUTORS/CO-OPS

Ace Hardware unveils new consumer website

BY Brae Canlen

Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware Corp. has unveiled the redesigned acehardware.com for consumers.

The website features new functionality designed to greatly enhance the consumer’s online experience, prominently featuring product reviews, tips and advice, store locator, enhanced “My Store” pages and Ace’s “Red Hot Buys.”            

Ace said it has improved the way that consumers interact online with their neighborhood Ace store, through enhancements to the site’s “My Store” pages, allowing for expanded Web page customization and room for additional content.

“The new ‘My Store’ upgrades allow our individually owned Ace stores to showcase the uniqueness of their stores by bringing to life their helpful staff, services and product offerings tailored to each of their individual communities” said Jeff Gooding, director of consumer marketing, Ace Hardware. 

The new site gets a thumbs up from a New York dealer. 

“The new acehardware.com is definitely easier to navigate, and the fact that Ace is really stressing the localness of each store is terrific,” said David Faulhaber, marketing coordinator of Costello’s Ace on New York’s Long Island. “The new My Store pages are a great way to further connect with our customers and customize our activities.”

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Congressman enters Ace Hardware dispute

BY Brae Canlen

An article in the Washington Post has escalated the battle between Ace Hardware and a group of former members who claim they were misled by the hardware co-op’s sales projections and other financial data. Joining the fray is Rep. Gerry Connolly, (D-Va.) who has sent a letter to the Small Business Administration, asking for a “robust investigation” into the complaint of Fischer Hardware, a Springfield, Va., dealer in his district that claims to have taken out $1.85 million in loans based on allegedly inflated revenue projections provided by Ace.

Pattie and Roy Ewers bought Fisher Hardware in late 2008, opened a Vision 21 Ace store in January 2009 and declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2012. In addition to the complaint filed with the SBA, they have filed a lawsuit against Ace Hardware. The store is still operating and is now supplied by Memphis, Tenn.-based distributor Orgill.

A copy of the Congressman’s letter provided to Home Channel News by Rep. Connolly’s office never mentions Ace Hardware. Instead, it asked for an investigation of the “lender,” who may have “willfully manipulated figures and business projections in order to justify inflated values, which were then used to qualify for loans” that were ultimately guaranteed by the SBA.

The letter also mentions numerous lawsuits filed around the country similar to this complaint. “This is not an isolated case, but appears to be a pattern that needs to be addressed,” the letter states.

Sasha Bigda, director of corporate communications for Ace Hardware, told Home Channel News that: “Our understanding is that Congressman Connolly recently asked the Small Business Administration to investigate the practices of some lenders under SBA loan programs. Ace Hardware Corporation is not a lender under any SBA program. The SBA has not contacted Ace about any investigation concerning any SBA loan program, nor has any other government agency done so.”        

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Ace completes early debt refinance

BY Ken Clark

Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware Corp. announced the early redemption of its outstanding 9.125% senior secured notes originally maturing June 1, 2016.  The refinance was driven by the April 13, 2012, closing of a new five-year $600 million senior secured credit facility composed of a new $400 million revolving credit facility and a new $200 million term loan, according to the co-op. 

Ray Griffith, president and CEO of Ace Hardware, said the deal puts Ace in a position for “significant future interest savings, while reflecting our strong financial position and ability to access the financial market at attractive terms.”

In addition to the early redemption of the senior notes, the new facility also replaced an existing $300 million senior secured revolving credit facility.

The pricing on the new $600 million facility will initially be LIBOR plus an applicable credit margin, subject to adjustment based on Ace’s leverage ratio, according to Ace. Bank of America served as administrative agent on the transaction, while Bank of America, JP Morgan and US Bank served as joint lead arrangers and joint bookrunners. 

To take advantage of the favorable interest rate environment, Ace entered into an interest rate swap derivative agreement to fix the interest rate of the $200 million term loan at 1.13% plus an applicable credit margin, representing an all-in rate of 3.38% based on today’s leverage ratio tier.

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