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Before and after: Stanley’s Hardware

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Before: Stanley’s Hardware in Philadelphia started out as a mom-and-pop card, candy and smoke shop in 1948, later evolving into a hardware store after relocating a mile away in 1958. Years later, it’s still in the family under third-generation owners Joe and Mark Jaconski, only now it carries the Destination True Value (DTV) seal.

Things that hadn’t changed since 1958: its enviable location on the town’s main drag and the problematic 2,800 sq. ft. of space it contained. The family had expanded into an adjoining building in the 1970s, which served as additional retail and storage space. The limited space meant that customers were often unable to see all the merchandise they had in stock. "We’d have light fixtures on display, but we’d have our stock upstairs," Mark said. "Anytime someone wanted something, we’d have to run up there. We made the space work, but it was very inefficient."

Solution: The brothers reached a tipping point last year, and they decided to remodel — right on top of the existing store’s parking lot. This allowed the store to maintain its business hours right up until the old store needed to be demolished.

The solution was simple: triple the space. The new store measures 13,000 sq. ft., with roughly 10,000 going to retail space and 2,250 allotted to a building in back that now serves as extra storage. The brothers believed in DTV’s bright, open layout, and they were especially eager to appeal to female shoppers. The transformation involved a housewares department, as well as lawn and garden products that feature flowers and live plants.

The new space also opened doors in the form of additional niche markets. Mark and Joe’s store now offers garden and rental, as well as Dickies clothing.

After: More elbow room, brighter displays, expanded product offerings and a much smarter workflow are among the changes since opening February 2013, with construction continuing into March and April. April saw a 48% increase in sales, even though the parking lot was still a work in progress.

"People love the new space because everything is bright and airy," Mark said. "It’s extremely female friendly, which was a huge component that caught our eye with the Destination True Value model. It was so important to us to have a female-friendly store."

More space has meant more sales to the tune of 62% in the second quarter alone. The average sale is up 20%, but many of the added benefits are non-quantifiable.

"We’re known for service first — now everyone can do both," Mark said. "Everyone’s accessible. I don’t have half my crew outside carrying stuff around."

That being said, customers seem content to help themselves. With more products, more space to encounter them in and a better layout, the trouble is no longer finding what they need — it’s discovering what they may want as well.

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Omega Flex wins in court

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The makers of a corrugated stainless steel tubing product are celebrating a recent court victory.

After a lightning strike set fire to a High Ridge, Mo., house in April 2010, the homeowners’ insurance company, American Automobile Insurance Co. (AAIC), sued Exton, Pa.-based OmegaFlex. The suit alleged that lightning burned a hole through the OmegaFlex TracPipe corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST) and caused a fire.

Court papers show that the plaintiff was looking for a $1 million payout, plus court costs. The jury didn’t buy it.

"Omega Flex proved that AAIC’s claims were false, and, in fact, the damage to the CSST pipe was caused after the fire had already started," according to the manufacturer’s statement in a release.

The jury found for Omega Flex on all counts and awarded AAIC nothing in damages.

The case appeared in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Several other similar cases have been brought against Omega Flex, including by plaintiffs Allstate and Home Owners Insurance Co., leading to settlements or dismissal. The cases bring a familiar complaint: that lightning burnt a hole in the CSST and ignited the natural gas that ran through it.

Omega Flex says it’s prepared to fight for the reputation of its product.

"After years of use by millions of homeowners, the evidence proves TracPipe CSST is not uniquely susceptible to damage from a lightning current that may enter a home," the company stated. "In fact, CSST has a superior overall safety record as compared with other appliances or equipment. OmegaFlex will continue to vigorously defend itself against frivolous claims about the safety of its products."

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Back in play: Innocent Sellers Act

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Representative Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) earned the praise of lumber dealers by reintroducing the "Innocent Sellers Fairness Act."

Here’s how National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) officials called it:

"NLBMDA applauds Representative Farenthold for his effort to bring balance to our legal system by recognizing that business owners that only sell products, and are not involved in the manufacturing process, should not be held liable for defects that they did not create."

— Chuck Bankston, NLBMDA chairman and president of Bankston Lumber in Barnesville, Ga.

"No amount of care can free a seller from disproportionate product liability, and plaintiffs’ lawyers know this. They routinely sue anyone in the chain of distribution of a product, often forcing settlements out of otherwise innocent merchants. These abusive product liability cases are part of a growing litigation burden on our nation’s small businesses and our economy. … We urge Congress to act swiftly on H.R. 2746."

Michael O’Brien, NLBMDA president and CEO

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