All-Star assignment

BY Ken Clark

Here’s an actual email from Home Channel News freelance editor Ken Ryan, after he completed research and writing duties for our “Second Annual Hardware All-Stars: Fifty Stores in Fifty States” project:

“Thanks for the assignment. It was fun to do.”

Fun? That guy has a great attitude, because we didn’t make it easy on him — or any of the other editors working on the project.

Essentially, the assignment went like this: Get a long list of retailers on the phone for an interview. Ask them to talk about what makes them special. Capture the essence of the business. Find out what makes them tick. Describe their inner workings and their competitive advantages beyond the basics of convenience and customer service.

And oh, by the way, do it in 50 to 75 words.

Our “Hardware Store All-Star” report begins on page 20. Relying on a combination of store visits, news searches and nominations from trusted industry sources, our editorial selection committee has assembled an All-Star lineup of retailers, one from each of our 50 states. They’re listed alphabetically from Alabama’s Hopper Building Supply to Wyoming’s Ace Hardware Buffalo.

These aren’t necessarily the state’s biggest stores, or even the most profitable. But they all show All-Star qualities.

By necessity, we left a lot on the cutting room floor.

We included the two-story, hardware-housewares strategy of Fuller’s Home & Hardware in Hinsdale, Ill. But we left out any mention of Dips & Dogs, the retailer’s standalone, on-premises hot dog and ice cream stand that dominates the town’s kid-focused social calendar.

We included Home Hardware & Supply’s big business in Weber grills. But we left out some amazing statistics. When the Waldwick, N.J., store began selling grills in 1987, you could count unit sales on two hands. That figure peaked at 1,000 during the housing surge, and has since leveled off to about 600 per year. And they do it with two Home Depots within a 10-minute drive.

We included the rebuilding of Wagner Hardware in Glenwood, Minn., which recovered from a snowstorm-induced roof collapse and opened a bigger, better store. But we left out the early struggles with the insurance company and the intense effort to stay in front of the public during the downtime that followed the destruction.

And we had to cut one of my favorite exchanges with a hardware store operator:

Home Channel News: “We think your store belongs on our list of All-Stars. Are we right?”

Pam Brown, Kohl’s Hardware & Lumber: “(Long pause.) Oh, yeah.”

There’s an old saying in newsrooms: If you leave good material on the cutting room floor, then you really got something.

And we’re already looking ahead to our 2013 list. If you have a nomination, tell us about it. And join the fun.

[email protected]


Leave a Reply

M.Wallbergg says:
May-16-2012 11:07 am

When the Waldwick, N.J.,
When the Waldwick, N.J., store began selling grills in 1987, you could count unit sales on two hands. Dubrovnik yachts



How concerned are you that a trade war could hurt your business?

Readers Respond


On the legality of healthcare reform

“Small businesses need healthcare reform to lower costs. If Obamacare is thrown out, something needs to replace it. Romney needs to address what he would replace it with.

“Responsible small businesses offer health care to their employees. The current system keeps increasing costs at double digits each year. That cannot last.”
— Dick Wegner
Portland, Ore.

How big is too big?
The following letters are in response to an article about large-format stores.

“If the builder of these stores provide powered carts for the disabled, as many supermarkets do, that’s fine. Asking someone who is aged to walk through those big stores is asking your customer to go above and beyond to shop there.”
— Bill Keller
St. Louis

“Menards are larger in Chicago, and I shop there first. The larger selection, the better. Depot should have done this five years ago. I do not mind the huge non-home improvement product offering. In fact I go there just to see what is new.”
— Anonymous

“If you’ve ever gone to a ‘regular’-sized big-box store and walked the entire perimeter looking for just three things, then you know a store twice the size will require electric carts to navigate.

“Bigger stores are insane. I was thinking smaller might work better or better layouts that actually help you find stuff.”
— Tom D.

“In my opinion, how many facings of one product does one need? I prefer smaller stores and smarter employees.”
— Michael Jones

The Buffett Rule: Pros and cons
The following letters responded to an article about a proposal, which failed in the Senate, for a minimum 30% tax on millionaires and billionaires.

“It really doesn’t make as significant a financial difference ($4.5 billion over 10 years) whether the Buffett Rule is passed or not. This just sets a tone where one party favors more equal treatment for all income levels, and the other favors or protects the higher income-level people. Some people still believe that ‘trickle down’ economics really works, after years of evidence that it doesn’t work. That is so much a part of their DNA that they can’t see any other way.

"A more important issue is to let the Bush tax cuts expire for all income levels. That will generate around $226 billion in additional revenue over 10 years that can help to pay down the debt and support programs that can continue to stimulate the economy that is growing, but at too slow a rate.

"Also, the entire tax code needs to be redone to eliminate most of the loopholes that were added for special interest groups of all kinds and determine the correct tax rates and brackets that would be considered ‘fair’ to all income levels, personal and business.”
— Wayne Reimer

“The question should be, do we want even more money taken out of our economy? There are two opposing views. The first believes that we are better off when the government is in charge of and has more money. The second believes that we are better off when private citizens are in charge of and have more money. The multiplier effect is always greater when private citizens are in charge of their money as stated by almost all economists. Whether a person is rich or poor, taking more money from anyone weakens our economy. America’s problem is not that tax revenues are too low. Our problem is that government is too big.”
— Jeff Wilson

“Your question assumes the assertion that millionaires are paying a lower rate (percentage) of tax than the average household. Check the facts with the IRS. Millionaires pay an average of 23%, while the average household paid 11%. (Source: Michael Medved, 04/17/2012)

“Maybe if enough media sources (like yours) would tell the true story, we would expose the lies of this sort.

“So the question is moot.”
— Bruce Hood


Leave a Reply

No comments found



How concerned are you that a trade war could hurt your business?

Builders FirstSource sees “momentum”

BY HBSDealer Staff

Momentum appears strong, but profits remain elusive for Builders FirstSource, the industry’s sole remaining publicly traded chain of lumberyards.

On the positive side of the ledge, the company posted its third straight quarter of sales increases of greater than 20%. But the company’s first-quarter loss was $19.1 million, which narrowed slightly from a loss of $21.1 million in the first quarter of 2011.

CEO Floyd Sherman sees market-share gains for his Dallas-based LBM dealer. “Our sales growth continues to outpace construction activity as actual U.S. single-family housing starts were up only 16.8% compared with the same quarter last year, and U.S. single-family units under construction actually decreased 5.0% over the same period,” he said.


Leave a Reply

No comments found



How concerned are you that a trade war could hurt your business?