HARDWARE STORES

Bostwick-Braun loses bid for Moore-Handley

BY HBSDEALER Staff

House-Hasson Hardware, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based hardware distributor, successfully outbid one of its rivals in an Alabama courtroom last night and secured the remaining assets of Moore-Handley, according to an article in The Birmingham News. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge chose House Hasson at 8:30 p.m., after a dramatic 12-hour hearing, because the company’s $14.5 million offer would best satisfy the Pelham, Ala.-based distributor’s largest creditors.

Bostwick-Braun, which had submitted a $10 million bid for Moore-Handley, upped its bid during the hearing but could not keep up with House-Hasson, the newspaper reported. House-Hasson said it plans to keep a skeleton crew at the Pelham warehouse, eliminating most of the 253 jobs there.

City officials and Moore-Handley employees who attended the auction urged the judge to rule in favor of Bostwick-Braun, which had plans to keep the distribution center in operation. Industry sources told Home Channel News that the employees also objected to their non-compete clauses being assigned to the new owner, House-Hasson, which had no intention of hiring them.

Founded in 1882, Moore-Handley filed a voluntary Chapter 11 petition on July 17, 2009, listing $18.8 million in secured debts.

House-Hasson, a member of Distribution America, serves more than 1,000 independent hardware store owners in 13 eastern states.

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IN-DEPTH: A strong brand online

BY HBSDEALER Staff

By Bill Addison

There are more than 20,000 hardware stores in the United States, according to the 2009 Home Improvement Research Institute reference guide, but only one chain has the domain name hardwarestore.com. Westminster, Mass.-based Aubuchon Hardware has held the key piece of digital real estate since 2003.

“I wish I could tell you we were smart enough to buy it way back when at a good rate,” said Will Aubuchon, director of e-commerce. He said the company actually bought the domain name from a computer hardware company who also owned hardware.com.

Aubuchon said the company was online since 1995, initially providing customers with store locations and contact information. In 1999, the Aubuchon brand was made aware of the possibilities of Web-based sales through its affiliation with Do it Best. After Aubuchon ended its agreement with the co-op, they knew pursuing online sales was going to be a key element in the company’s future business.

“It wasn’t cheap. Buying it from this other company was an investment,” he said. “I looked at it as buying a piece of property. It’s a nice piece of real estate in an ever-growing part of our world — online.”

The 101-year-old family owned business has more than 125 stores throughout New England, but its online store is its highest-grossing location.

“It’s our number one store by multiples of three,” said Aubuchon, stating the Web site generated $5 million in sales last year, approximately 4% of their total sales volume. And while Aubuchon sees the growth opportunity the domain name presents, he said the company is currently not pursing that line.

“We’re probably missing some opportunities there in terms of branding, but it’s not currently our focus. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there, but it will need a lot of horsepower behind it to make it work,” he said.

Aubuchon said that the domain name by itself does not seem to lead most customers to the Aubuchon brand. In fact, he said their data indicates that most people find hardwarestore.com by searching for Aubuchon first. “It’s not going to be your home page that drives your business,” he said.

However, there was one definite branding advantage Aubuchon did admit the domain offers.

“It’s certainly a lot easier to spell than Aubuchon,” he said.

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Ace store slated for Wisconsin

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Watson Ace Hardware, a new store in Lake Mills, Wis., will officially open Sept. 29. The 11,000-sq.-ft. unit will be the first hardware store operated by owner Brian Watson, according to an Ace Hardware press release.

Grand opening festivities will take place Oct. 9, 10 and 11. Activities include giveaways, free food and drink, discounts and a John Madden look-a-like contest.

Lake Mills, Wis., is located 24 miles east of Madison, with a population of 5,500 residents, according to 2008 census records.

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