In Baltimore, a community rallies around hardware
When Baltimore’s Belle Hardware found itself in the line of fire during last month’s riots, the situation turned from bad to better overnight. By the following morning on April 28, local customers and friends — including a few elementary school students — had turned up to help clean up the damage and provide moral support.
As told to HBSDealer by co-owner Janice McCulley, she showed up to work that morning two hours ahead of schedule to check on the damage. To her surprise, people were already waiting outside, ready to help, sweep and vacuum.
Multiple people came by throughout the day to provide food, coffee and encouragement. More than anything, people were concerned that Belle Hardware wouldn’t stick around, but the events only seemed to highlight how important the shop was to the tight-knit community it serves.
“I couldn’t close the store because it’s a hardware store,” said McCulley. “People needed brooms, mops and bags to clean up the other stores [in the vicinity].”
There was no call or notice for people to come — they just did, she said. But “if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where we would have been.”
A test of loyalty at Tractor Supply
Tractor Supply Company has had 22 consecutive quarters of positive comp store sales. (Home Depot’s streak? 16.) And here’s a scary thought for competitors: Tractor Supply has done so with no formal customer loyalty program.
But that’s about to change, according to Steve Barbarick, executive VP and chief merchandising officer, who says the retailer’s smartest IT minds are on the case.
“Our crack team and IT are working through the process of putting it all together for us,” he said during the company’s first-quarter conference call. Limited loyalty testing should begin in the second half of the year. “We will test and learn and move forward if we think it’s something that’s viable,” he added.
That’s not the only testing going on at the 1,400-store Brentwood, Tennessee-based farm-and-ranch giant. And a lot of that testing is in the new Merchandise Innovation Center, which recently moved into a larger space with higher ceilings in a 32,000-sq.-ft. space in Nashville.
“We can walk those planograms,” Barbarick said. “We can assess the profitability per square foot. We can try a lot of things out there and get a visual all at one time rather than breaking it apart in little 4-and 8-ft. sections.”
Readers Respond: A closer look at a store closing
A recent HBSDaily newsletter linked to an article about a store closing in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis Star article and headline, “Hard times for small hardware stores,” rang untrue to some readers.
Here is one response:
“It’s more than a bit ironic that shortly after the Indy Star published its retread of the oft-told story predicting the imminent demise of the independent neighborhood hardware store, thousands of Do it Best member-owners, vendors and company staff returned to the Indiana Convention Center for another outstanding Do it Best market. There, where we’ve gathered for nearly 40 years, our members enthusiastically embraced new programs and technology to grow their businesses and achieve their dreams.
“… Our retailers are seeing tremendous opportunities to add exciting new products, attract new customers and sell through more channels (e-commerce and commercial sales, to name a few) than ever before. They are investing in store expansions and adding new locations and competing head-to-head with the big boxes.
“Simply put, the tired narrative about how the small business owner is knocking at death’s door is simply false. True, retailers that have not adapted to the changing economy or focused on appealing to the changing tastes of today’s shoppers are probably struggling — and it’s easy to blame someone else for those challenges.
“But the reality is that progressive, strategic independent businesses are winning, and we couldn’t be prouder of their successes. All one needs as proof is to look at member-owner Pat Sullivan and his Sullivan’s Hardware & Garden, another Indianapolis neighborhood hardware store. Pat just announced a $1 million expansion of his anchor store, doubling its size to serve even more customers. Clearly, he’s not afraid to compete and win — and neither should the thousands of other independent home improvement retailers across the country.” — Rich Lynch, VP marketing, Do it Best Corp.