Don Hasson’s eyes are on the numbers
One of the ways Don Hasson measures success at House-Hasson Hardware, described as America’s largest regional hardware distributor, is by the silence of his telephone.
“Out of hundred dollars ordered, our goal is to ship $98 worth,” he said in an interview with HBSDealer. “That is where we are at, and that’s where our customers like us to be. We don’t get many phone calls. You get phone calls when it drops from there.”
Those kinds of phone calls haven’t been vexing Hasson, who points to a 98% service level in addition to a low error rate of one-half of one percent for the distribution network.
It’s been almost a year since House-Hasson Hardware acquired Birmingham, Alabama-based distributor Long-Lewis Hardware. With the acquisition, House-Hasson is running at about a 20% increase in business. And Hasson says the focus is on maintaining efficiency through the integration of the two distribution networks.
“My primary goal this year is to be certain that our metrics stay on track and that we continue to do the things you need to do well,” he said. “So we’re really spending this year absorbing that acquisition and being certain that our numbers are where they are supposed to be.”
House-Hasson was founded in 1906 (the same year as the first flight of the Wright Brothers). Under Don Hasson’s tenure, it has made four other acquisitions. “We understand what it takes,” he said.
House-Hasson operates two distribution centers: one in Knoxville, Tennessee, and one in Prichard, West Virginia. The acquisition of Long-Lewis required a shift in some of the flow of product, with the Southern customer base of Long-Lewis being served from Knoxville, and some existing House-Hasson customers moving into the orbit of Prichard.
The addition of the Long-Lewis business helps the distributor better compete on a number of fronts, he said. “I don’t think Home Depot is going to quiver in their boots, but it sure helps us to have more clout with our vendors, and there’s a lot of vendors that are very supportive of the two step-channel,” he said. “We’re good partners with a lot of those folks and vice versa. “
House-Hasson serves some 2,000 independent hardware dealers, lumberyards and home centers in territories covering 18 states and parts of the Caribbean. (A “good number” of those are affiliated with a national co-op, or Orgill, he said.) Still, Hasson is comfortable with the “regional” approach to distribution, and prefers to focus on states east of the Mississippi River.
“We like it in this part of the world, and we see lots of additional opportunities to grow in this region,” he said.
Hasson pointed to a dealer Web design program as a way to compete in the digital world. In-house Web designers build customer sites for stores.
“In addition to giving them a customized website, we also give them access to our inventory, our 50,000 items and a ship-to-store program, so their customers in their local markets can buy anything we have and go pick it up in store,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest in that program right now.”
The threat from Amazon and its like seems to loom larger than even the threat from the big-box home improvement center, according to Hasson’s view of the industry.
"I think if we were having this interview 10 or 15 years ago [the big box] would have been the biggest threat, the biggest topic and the biggest issue,“ he said. “But I think now they are so inundated throughout the population that they're an old competitor, not a new competitor, anybody who is going to be harmed or threatened by them, it’s already happened."
Keeping an eye on e-commerce is one characteristic of successful retailer. There are others, and they are consistent, he believes.
“The top customers they all have a lot of certain characteristics, they’re clean, they’re well-merchandised, they’re priced right and they’re customer-oriented,” he said. “And every one of them that you visit, whether they be our top 100 or anybody else’s, that’s how they’re going to look.”
Not So Lame: Websites That Work
Last month, HBSDealer published an indictment of the lame website. Many of our readers self-confessed to having little in the way of a Web presence, and those who do are not entirely up to speed.
Of a total of 218 respondents, 39% said they would describe their company’s online presence as “Non-existent: At least we’re in the phone book.” An additional 17% answered “Weak,” and 26% were “Above Average.” Only 18% of the respondents gave themselves a top rating of “Strong” in the Web design category.
This time, we thought we’d turn it around and shine the spotlight on a couple of websites that are in pretty excellent shape. Internet Luddites, take note! Here’s what a successful hardware store website looks like.
Miami, Florida-based Shell Lumber & Hardware hits you first with an immersive, multimedia experience. What better way to personify your store than by letting the viewer hang out there vicariously? The site follows through on its initial promise with clear-cut navigation, a digital catalog, a well-articulated mission statement and an informative blog. (shelllumber.com)
Boulder, Colorado-based McGuckin Hardware doesn’t treat its social presence like an afterthought. Scroll just a little past its moving ticker of deals and promotions, as well as store information displayed prominently in the page header, and you get this attractive spread of social media links and historical reading material. (www.mcguckin.com)
With a title like “World’s Coolest Hardware Store,” the site design certainly lives up to the promise. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Blackhawk Hardware made an interesting choice to prioritize its blog content on its main page, which includes posts ranging from Big Green Egg Easter recipes to Pinewood Derby Car Supplies. (blackhawkhardware.com)
We need your Hardware Store All Star submissions
HBSDealer is gearing up for its sixth annual Hardware Store All Star season.
But first, we need nominations. For those of you who aren't familiar with the process, our Hardware Store All Star special report will recognize one store from each state in the May issue of HBSDealer.
The editors of HBSDealer will recognize hardware stores, lumberyards and farm-and-ranch retailers that excel at some aspect of the retail business. The honorees aren’t always the biggest stores in their market, but they all connect with their communities in interesting ways and show a willingness to innovate and adapt.
Please send your nominations to [email protected] by April 5 to ensure consideration.