Do it Best embraces farm, ranch and automation
Indianapolis — Do it Best VP merchandising Steve Markley pointed to opportunities in farm-and-ranch products as well as home-automation technology during the co-op’s May market merchandising preview.
For the first time, the show floor here featured a Farm and Ranch Product Exhibit, displaying merchandising ideas and new products for what Markley called "one of the fastest growing categories at retail today." Markley said the exhibit includes products that would expand the offering of any farm-and-ranch focused retailer. It also features several products that allow for easy entry into the category, he said.
The show floor also has a dedicated area called "Home Automation Headquarters." According to Markley, all retailers should consider home automation as a growth opportunity. He pointed to statistics showing that the category is expected to grow by 50% in each of the next three years.
In many cases, the category offers products that work with a smart phone. For instance, he described a temperature probe for grilling that can be managed from a smart phone. The Kevo, smart-phone operated dead bolt is also an example of the kinds of technology in existence and in the pipeline.
"It’s important that we keep abreast of what is happening in this area for the future," Markley said. "Even if it’s not for you, it will be for your kids or your grandkids."
Markley also plugged the co-op’s exclusive licensing deal with Channellock. Sales of these Channellock-licensed products at Do it Best increased 26% year-to-date, he said.
During the co-op’s Merchandising Market Preview, fifteen category managers rapidly presented highlights to the assembled co-op members. Among the products:
• Delta Toilets, which were introduced at the October show and sold better than expected;
• A new product for the bathroom called Poo-Pourri comes with the slogan: "spray before you go and no one will know;"
• The Snow Wolf snow shovel from NooTools uses the power of a large wheel to clear snow three times faster than a regular shovel while reducing stress on the back;
• JT Eaton rolled out a Bigfoot brand mouse trap;
• Lucky Line Key Shapes brings creativity to household keys. (The top-selling key shape: a mug of beer.); and
• In the lawn and garden area, category manager Gary Loosle gave an update on ice melt — a super hot product during the extended winter in much of the country. "We sold a lot, a lot, a lot of ice melt, and the May market is the best time to buy." He added: "Calcium chloride is going to possibly continue to have shortages next year."
Big weekend for paint at Ace
A buy-one-get-one deal described as the co-op’s most aggressive promotion ever is bolstering the Oak Brook, Illinois-based co-op’s grand opening of The Paint Studio in some 3,200 stores.
On Saturday and Sunday (May 17 and 18), consumers can get a second gallon for free of either Clark+Kensington or Valspar Optimus.
“This weekend Ace Hardware is inviting millions of homeowners across America to visit their new neighborhood Paint Studio and find the color inspiration they’ve been looking for to complete their next painting project,” said John Surane, executive VP marketing, merchandising and sales for Ace Hardware. “The Buy One, Get One event is the most aggressive promotion we’ve ever offered, and coupled with our award-winning helpful service and new Paint Studio, finding the perfect paint color has never been easier.”
The major idea behind the new Paint Studio, unveiled in late 2013, is that customers seek a more style-inspired and personal paint shopping experience, as opposed to a traditional trip to the hardware store. Ace and Valspar partnered to bring the new format into Ace stores, a move described as a $75 million investment.
Competition in the paint category continues to heat up. While Ace is preparing for its grand opening, Chicago-based True Value revealed plans to roll out to 2,000 stores a new and improved color center, along with a redesigned and refocused website, TrueValuePaint.com.
True Value also says its paint offering is being strengthened by ultra low-VOC colorants and paints that appeal to the environmentally conscious customer.
Ace reports record performance
Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware Corp. reported today that strong performance in core categories lifted the co-op to what it calls its "best first quarter for both revenues and net income in its 90-year history."
The co-op reported total revenues of $1.1 billion for the first quarter, up 16.8% from the same quarter last year. Net income was $24.4 million, up from $4.4 million in the year-ago quarter.
"While the frigid winter certainly helped our Q1 business, I’m pleased to see our winter categories were less than 20% of our overall growth as all core hardline departments were up sharply and contributed significantly to our increase," said John Venhuizen, Ace president and CEO.
At Ace Retail Holdings, the co-op’s retail arm created with the late 2012 purchase of the Westlake Ace Hardware chain, sales increased 9.8% to $43.7 million. Once again, increased sales of winter goods bolstered sales.
During the quarter, the co-op added 84 new stores to its ranks, while canceling 35 stores. That activity brought the company’s global total store tally to 4,878.
The 3,100 Ace retailers who share POS data showed same-store-sales growth of 5.2%, the company said.
Regarding the company’s first-quarter acquisition of Maine-based regional distributor Emery-Waterhouse, the company said the move "serves as a catalyst to leverage wholesale purchasing power."