DISTRIBUTORS/CO-OPS

CEO points to the value of feedback

BY HBSDEALER Staff

True Value set a couple of records in 2016. The co-op’s members completed 101 remodels throughout the year, a 30% jump on its second most active remodeling year. Not only that: 68 new True Value stores opened from scratch. All told, the co-op gained about 1.5 million sq. ft. of modern retail space.

That kind of growth wouldn’t have happened without feedback from members, said CEO John Hartmann, who said the co-op responded to suggestions to make the Destination True Value store design concept more flexible and accessible to members.

Feedback is playing out in other areas, too. The co-op’s Customized True Blue assortments, which launched two years ago, are showing a clear impact on sales, he said. Sales at stores that participate in CTB are up about 5% over non-participating stores. The merchandise assortments grew out of a need to recognize more factors than small, medium and large. “We don’t want to just look at the size of the store,” Hartmann said. “We want to look at its urbanicity. Is it rural, suburban or urban? And, on top of that, we add marketplace data spend patterns into assortment, truly customizing them.”

Last year, the co-op sold 11,000 individual CTB assortments. In 2017, the co-op is on pace to sell 20,000.

And when it comes to competing with the modern giants of home improvement and the innovators of Silicon Valley, listening will play a major role again.

“Regardless of how I feel about Amazon, what really matters is what our retailers are doing to satisfy what the consumer wants,” Hartmann said. “And if I am actively listening and I’m crafting solutions both in my small format store […] and complementing that with the right omnichannel solutions, then I sleep really well at night knowing I can compete effectively in today’s marketplace.”

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America’s favorite home improvement retailer is…

BY Marianne Wilson

A smaller-format, neighborhood-oriented retailer beat out big-box competitors to rank as the nation's favorite home improvement retailer in a just-released study.

Ace Hardware, known for its neighborly service and an intense focus on the customer experience, earned the top spot, with a composite loyalty score of 63%, in a study by Market Force Information.

Menards ranked second, with a 60% score, followed by Lowe’s, with 55%, and Home Depot, with 51%. (In order to be included in the category, a traditional home improvement brand must have been selected by 100 or more respondents representing 2% or more of total. Only Ace, Menards, Lowe's and Home Depot qualified).

Market Force also looked at how the top brands fare in operational and product attributes that matter most to consumers. Ace Hardware ranked first in most categories, with particularly strong marks for ease of finding merchandise, staff service and knowledge, and speedy checkouts. 

Menards scored highest for merchandise variety and value, while Lowe’s earned the top spot for parking availability. Home Depot ranked last of the brands in all service categories, as well as cleanliness and value.

Market Force’s research revealed that 60% of consumers consider themselves “DIY enthusiasts,” who not only purchase the materials and products themselves, but also complete their own home improvement projects. Another 22% fall in the “do-it-for-me” group that purchases the materials and products, but outsources the labor.

"Home improvement could be a bright light in the retail sector with remodeling projects on the rise and consumers more confident about investing in their homes,” said Ray Walsh, CEO of Market Force Information. “Our research shows that retailers must continue to focus on the customer experience to differentiate their offer and capture a greater share of this growing market, excelling in areas such as value, store cleanliness, and merchandise variety and availability.”

In other findings:

  • Home Depot’s app is most popular, with 45% using it, followed by Lowe’s, Walmart, Ikea and Menards. Of the 18% of consumers who indicated they have used an app, 93% of them said the app was helpful.
  • One-fifth reported that they participate in the loyalty program offered by the retailer they most recently visited. Ace Hardware’s program is overwhelmingly the most popular with 67% participation, Lowe’s ranked a distant second with 21%, Menards was third with 11% and Home Depot trailed with 8%.
  • Nineteen percent indicated they have a home improvement store-branded credit card, with most choosing Lowe’s (25%) and Home Depot (21%). Just 7% have a Menards card and 3% have an Ace card. 

For the home improvement rankings, Market Force Information (Market Force) polled more than 7,800 consumers. The participants were asked to rate their satisfaction with their last experience at a home improvement or furnishings store and their likelihood to recommend it to others. That data was averaged to rate each brand on an aggregation of the two measures – a composite loyalty Index.

Market Force also looked at the attributes that drive these preferences, analyzing factors such as merchandise and brand selection, cleanliness and value.

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Ace Hardware makes a promise

BY HBSDealer Staff

Ace Hardware is making an Extra Mile Promise, and it involves raising the stakes for what customers can expect when they visit the paint aisle.

The Extra Mile Promise is a guarantee that Ace has the expert advice and supplies needed to help consumers successfully tackle any paint project with just one trip to the store.

This initiative is an answer to the demand for a less frustrating trip to the paint aisle, often caused by forgotten items or insufficient quantities of paint. With a one-trip guarantee, Ace is promising free delivery to any consumer who needs additional paint supplies.

"While it hurt our pride to learn this, the truth is that while consumers trust Ace as the Helpful Place, far too many of them believed that our speedy sized stores didn't have enough product to complete their paint project," said John Venhuizen, President and CEO. "We know this isn't the case, so to assuage these misperceptions, we decided to stand behind our large paint assortment with the Extra Mile Promise. Our objective is simple: to be known as the #1, best, most convenient, most helpful and most credible store for paint in the neighborhood."

Ace has already been taking steps to make itself a paint destination, such as carrying premium paint brands like Clark+Kensington and Valspar Optimus, as well as unveiling its Paint Studio concept in recent years.

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