Costello’s offers advice with a familiar face

BY Ken Ryan

The image of "Vinnie" peers at customers from atop a video monitor at Costello’s Ace Hardware on Long Island, its nose and fingers hanging over the screen.

"Vinnie" is named after Costello’s Ace Hardware founder Vincent Costello, known to longtime customers as Vinnie.

"Mr. Costello spent many years helping customers solve their home improvement problems," said David Faulhaber, marketing coordinator, Costello’s Ace, Deer Park, N.Y. "He was so well respected and trusted by the customers that they never questioned his suggestions — they knew that Vinnie would always suggest the right products and give the right advice to get the project completed."

"Vinnie Suggests" is Costello Ace’s way of putting "quality, seasonally relevant, problem-solving products in front of consumers at a great price," said Faulhaber, noting that the loop video adds value by showing features, benefits and uses of the product.

The video is positioned low enough so customers can easily view the movie, but high enough so that it is out of harm’s way. Support brackets hold the television in place and snap into the side of the endcaps so that the weight is evenly distributed and the item is secured.

A cardboard cutout of one of the Clark + Kensington "Soul People," a campaign Ace corporate ran last year that it is bringing back, is positioned in front of the monitor. "This particular endcap was a combination of products referencing some ‘How-to Paint Your Home’ FAQ," Faulhaber said.

Costello’s Ace invested in the equipment and signage; its vendors provided the video, which is generally downloaded to the in-store television’s USB drive. "Each month, our stores go online to download the content and reset the endcaps," Faulhaber said. "The videos are on a continuous loop, so there isn’t much maintenance besides turning the television on each day and keeping the endcaps filled."


"Vinnie Suggests" appears in 15 of Costello’s 19 locations; each month a new product appears. "In spring, we’ll educate our customers with videos regarding lawn fertilization and grass seeds. Come fall, we will switch gears to choosing the right thermostat or how to repel rodents from your home," Faulhaber said. "We like to feature products that our customers may need some more clarification on."

The "Vinnie Suggests" endcap has been a boon for business. "Slotting space and endcap space is always a highly sought after position within our stores, mainly because of the foot traffic that walks past them," Faulhaber said. "Adding an attention-grabbing video into that equation has sparked new interest of our customers, as well as generated a lot of inquiries from the vendor community to be a part of the program. It’s a great way to highlight new items, educate on usage of existing ones and call attention to value."


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Who do you view as your biggest competitor?

Builders’ Show Highlights


Moen MotionSense faucet

Moen’s MotionSense hands-free faucet features sensors that detect movement in two zones. The faucet can be activated in three ways: by Wave Sensor at the top of the faucet, by Ready Sensor near the base or by using the handle. MotionSense also helps homeowners save water in the kitchen. The Ready Sensor will supply water only when an object or hands are within the sensing zone. MotionSense sensors are powered by a battery pack that uses six standard AA batteries or an optional AC power adapter. An LED light provides visual feedback, indicating when the faucet turns on or off, or if the faucet is running low on batteries. (

Progress Lighting Archie collection

The Archie collection pendant features a traditional shade made of clear double prismatic glass. It is available in antique nickel and Venetian bronze and measures 10-1/2 ins. in diameter and 9-1/4 ins. tall. The Archie collection was made for use as kitchen lighting or bar lighting. (

TimberTech Earthwood Evolutions Terrain

TimberTech has expanded its Earthwood Evolutions product line to include the Terrain Collection. Joining the Tropical and Natural Collections, this new color palette features two long-lasting colors — Brown Oak and Silver Maple — that imitate the earthy tones in nature. Earthwood Evolutions is a fully capped plank that features TimberTech’s proprietary HydroLock technology, offering durability and moisture resistance. Its Flat Grain surface pattern does not trap dirt and has variegated color designed to achieve a hardwood appearance. Planks come in either a grooved profile or a solid profile. (


NyloDeck was the featured decking material in two model homes at Show Village 2013, an outdoor exhibit at IBS this year. NyloDeck is a strong, durable and eco-friendly composite decking material made with recycled carpet fiber and VOC-free resins that contain no wood or PVC. The eco-friendly deck board comes in a variety of colors and is impervious to moisture, mold, mildew and termites, with a natural wood-looking finish and unique grains on every color-through board. The strength of NyloDeck enables it to span joists at 24-in. O.C. or diagonally at 16-in. O.C., and is available in lengths up to 24 ft. (

CAMO Fasteners

National Nail Corp.’s CAMO Fasteners recently released the Marksman Pro-X1, a contractor-grade tool designed to create a fastener-free surface for treated wood decks. It delivers the slightest 1/16-in. automatic spacing for installed gapping. The Marksman Pro-X1 clamps securely to the deckboard and has dual screw guides to fasten both sides of the board with single tool placement. It fits boards measuring 5-1/4 in. to 5-3/4 in. (

Quikrete Concrete Coatings

Quikrete has launched a line of professional concrete coatings and additions to its suite of Zip & Mix and stucco products. The company combined a light semi-transparent base with a dark semi-transparent accent in a two-part process that offers repeatable coating application and designs. Quikrete identified four color systems — tan, gray, brown and terra-cotta — that consistently produce desired patterns featuring a light base with dark accents. The product will be available later this spring at home centers nationwide. (

Nexia Home Intelligence

Nexia Home Intelligence, by Ingersoll Rand brands Schlage and Trane, now offers increased home automation, featuring a number of compatible products and technologies to create a total connected solution. Homeowners can remotely manage multiple features and functions of their home — including door locks, heating and cooling systems, video surveillance, lights, shades and energy usage — via any Web-enabled computer or smartphone. Among Nexia’s most recent product expansions is the new Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt, the new Trane Energy Management Solution powered by eMonitor, and new zoning capabilities with the Trane ComfortLink II Control. (

Kohler Moxie

Kohler’s Moxie shower head has a Bluetooth-enabled wireless speaker that can sync with a smartphone or MP3 player to stream music into the shower. In addition the speaker pod can be removed and used anywhere in the home. The wireless speaker delivers up to seven hours of music, news and more. The shower head’s easy-to-clean silicone sprayface features 60 angled nozzles that deliver an enveloping spray. Available with a water-saving 2.0 gpm or a 2.5 gpm spray, Moxie will also help homeowners save water without sacrificing performance. (

Lemieux Torrefied Collection

The Torrefied Collection of exterior doors is made from wood that has been heated to make it more structurally stable and heat-, cold- and moisture-resistant. The line is available in each of Lemieux’s 10,000-plus design options and custom designs. It is available in sizes up to 4 ft. wide and 8 ft. tall. Homeowner can also order arched/radius top doors, custom designs, curved rails, with panels and/or glass. The Torrefied Collection is available in vertical grain Douglas Fir, Mahogany and Poplar. (

Formica laminate patterns

Formica’s 33 new laminate patterns include refreshed woodgrains, graphics and optimistic brights. The 2013 Formica brand laminate collection includes Ribbonwood (pictured), which uses 5/32-in. strips of wood to create a modern, butcher-block look; Classic woodgrains, such as Ash, Legno and Teak, which are restyled in up-to-date colors and layouts; 10 solid colors; and Chameleon, which introduces a versatile pattern that can be interpreted as a variety of natural and man-made materials. (

LP SmartSide Trim and Siding

At IBS’ Show Village, LP Outdoor Building Solutions (OBS) presented the inaugural Shed Village, featuring three structures, each with a different combination of technologically advanced products. Called storage sheds or backyard barns, these structures are small enough to fit in the backyard and are versatile enough to be used for a variety of uses. (

AZEK 10-ft. Rail

AZEK Building Products’ AZEK Rail in 10-ft. lengths, which will be offered in Premier, Trademark and Reserve profiles, spans 10 ft. between posts and offers faster installation with less labor and material costs. The secret of the stiffness is a powder-coated, high-strength aluminum retainer used in conjunction with the composite handrail. It is available in all three AZEK Rail styles: AZEK Premier Rail, a classic Victorian style railing with flat handrail; AZEK Trademark Rail, a Colonial style with rounded handrail; and AZEK Reserve Rail, the flat handrail. (

Ply Gem Column Collection

Kroy by Ply Gem has introduced a new modular stone veneer system to its fence and rail line: The Column Collection from Ply Gem Stone. The stacked stone columns are designed as an architectural feature for a variety of applications. The pieces are constructed in square-shaped sections to allow for custom heights. The collection was designed with one versatile stacked stone color, Canyon. (

Therma-Tru Doors

Therma-Tru showcased a variety of new doors, decorative glass and product line enhancements at IBS. The company’s exhibit included its new Lucerna and Arden decorative glass, an expansion of the Classic-Craft Canvas Collection product line, the new Pulse line of modern-style doors and new stainable astragals. Decorative glass product line extensions are also being introduced for several door families. (

Jeld-Wen Molded Impression Interior Door

The Molded Impression Interior Door line can function as a chalkboard or a magnetic bulletin board, thanks to the company’s new magnetic chalkboard design, which features a classic schoolhouse-black chalkboard that doubles as a magnetic bulletin board. The large utility surface is made of durable steel pre-painted with chalk-ready paint. The other side of the door can be made with one of 16 molded facings. (

Solair Comfort Awning

Solair Shade Solutions has unveiled its newest version of the Solair Comfort retractable awning. Similar to the Solair Pro awning, which re-launched with updates in 2012, the Comfort awning allows construction professionals to increase a home’s usable square footage, provides flexible shade and offers energy-conserving capabilities. It features a simplified pitch adjustment, H bracket design for less overall space and arms that help reduce wind stress through a coated double cable design and improved swivel front bar attachment. New rounded retainer pins help reduce wear to the valance, while added roller supports are designed with a forward lean to reduce the amount of space needed to mount the awning in place. (


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Who do you view as your biggest competitor?

At Tractor Supply, new chief tells similar story

BY Ken Clark

For the past several years, whenever Tractor Supply’s CEO Jim Wright spoke about his company’s earnings, he usually described a strong performance in a challenging environment — a 1,000-plus-store little engine that could.

Last month, his replacement, Greg Sandfort, picked up where Wright left off, pointing to a 10.8% fourth-quarter sales increase and a 24% increase in net income. In his first earnings call as CEO, Sandfort ran analysts through the Brentwood, Tenn.-based retailer’s challenges and opportunities.

The conservative customer:

"We have seen very little change from recent quarters regarding our customers’ purchasing behaviors. Our consumers are spending conservatively, and they are seeking out compelling values. Purchases are being driven by necessity and are taking place much closer to need."

The newness factor:

"In the first part of the year, we make most of our hard planogram changes. And we touch between 30% and 40% of the store. The second piece is what we do in the center corridor and on the outside of the store. Our team has done a wonderful job of bringing probably 50% to 60% of new product into those spaces year after year. You’ll see that again this year as you walk into our stores."

Price optimization:

"We are now in year two of our price optimization [initiative]. We don’t just turn this system on and let it run. We test against control stores to make sure that we’re getting the right results. As I see this developing, it’s a much longer-term journey than I think I initially anticipated."

On smaller-format stores:

"We’re really pleased with the performance, and the thing about these small stores is, it’s really not a different concept. What we’ve done is modify some of the depth and breadth of assortment to match the market. The typical customer thinks this is the same Tractor Supply. It just is a smaller box."

On managing clearance:

"When we see products not selling to the degree that we’d like, we’ll take those first initial markdowns understanding that the 20% markdown gets me 80 cents on the dollar today, versus if I wait until January or February, I get 20 cents on the dollar when I’m at 80% off. So we’re fairly aggressive on moving through inventory when we see issues.

On the hot product of generators:

"I think what we’re going to see in the Northeast is individuals wanting to put what I’ll call standby generators in their homes. Not the portables, but standbys. This is the second year now that they’ve been without power."


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Who do you view as your biggest competitor?