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Extreme makeover

BY HBSDEALER Staff

In the years preceding his company’s extreme home improvement makeover, Charles Cole, president of Cole’s Home Solutions, very clearly identified his company’s problem. “Lowe’s was kicking our butts, and we were just dying on the vine,” he said.

It was a time for big ideas, and Cole had one—a massive makeover of the conventional 18,000-sq.-ft. hardware store into a one-of-a-kind 70,000-sq.-ft. home center and indoor lumberyard.

“I didn’t want us to look like anyone else, and we didn’t want a cookie cutter approach,” he said. “I don’t want to go head-to-head trying to look like Lowe’s, because I don’t think I could win. I gotta do something different.”

The new Cole’s Home Solutions opened in November 2009.

The ideas behind the store came from a variety of sources, but one of the catalysts was a chance visit to a motorcycle dealership, where Cole said he was blown away by an artist’s rendering of a future location. He approached the design firm responsible, the Renaissance Group, and invited them to design a home improvement store.

“They said, ‘We never did a home improvement store before,’” Cole recalled. “And I said, ‘Great, that’s why I want you. You don’t have any preconceived notions.’”

“It was constant brainstorming,” said Angelo Martino of the Renaissance Group. Part of the inspiration came from the store-within-a-store approach of a typical industry trade show. “The store is like a trade show,” Martino said. “Every place has its own identity. And that’s how we started to develop the interior.”

The rustic, town square feeling of Cracker Barrel and Bass Pro Shop influenced the design as well. Cole was particularly inspired by the activity in the Cracker Barrel gift shop. (The gift category remains an area where Cole’s is looking to expand.) “We started getting our vendors excited about what we were doing,” Cole said. “Not all of them [though] because not all of them could see what we were saying.”

One vendor that saw the light was The Hillman Group, which custom-designed a fastener department for the new store, incorporating themes it normally uses to add spark to its trade show displays.

“They gave us the canvas and said, ‘Here you go, do what you want to do,’” said Steve Ruwe, Hillman’s senior marketing communications manager. “And that’s what we did. It’s spacious. It gives you the wow factor.”

The retailer turned to experts including lumber-yard specialst Johnson Design Services of Portland, Maine, and Memphis-based Orgill’s retail specialists.

“Orgill stepped in with us, and they stepped in big time,” Cole said

“Our sales are up maybe three times last year,” he said. “It’s a whole lot better—getting better all the time—and we’re still tweaking it.”

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Armstrong reports mixed results for Q2

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Lancaster, Pa.-based floor, cabinet and ceiling manufacturer Armstrong World Industries reported second-quarter income of $26.8 million, down 5.3% from the $28.3 million reported for the same period last year.

Sales for the three-month period ended June 30 were $724.8 million, up 2.7% from $705.7 million reported last year. The company said excluding a $6 million impact of foreign exchange rates, sales increased 2%.

By segment, resilient flooring net sales were $276.0 million, up 2% from $270.3 million in the same period of 2009.

Wood flooring sales of $127.2 million in the second quarter were flat compared with $127.8 million in the prior year’s quarter.

Building products sales were $284.4 million, up 5.8% from $268.7 million in the prior year’s quarter.

Cabinet sales were $37.2 million, down 4% from $38.9 million in 2009.

Looking forward, the company expects 2010 sales to be between $2.7 billion and $2.8 billion. Adjusted operating income forecasted range has improved to between $170 million and $190 million, compared with $157 million in 2009.

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Scam artist preys on home improvement shoppers

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A man claiming he needs money to buys tools because he’s locked out of his car has victimized several elderly citizens outside Lowe’s and Home Depot stores in Glen Burnie, Md., according to an article in the Maryland Gazette.

County police have counted three incidents since June where the suspect, Robert Warren Bayly Jr., has conned victims out of money ranging from $35 to $128 after approaching them in the parking lot and explaining how he locked his wallet and keys inside his vehicle.

On two occasions, Baylay also asked to be driven to multiple locations in an effort to retrieve tools or assistance to open his car, further fleecing his victims along the way. Eventually, he just disappeared.

The suspect is being charged with theft by deception, trespassing, theft under $1,000, theft scheme under $1,000 and obtaining property of a vulnerable adult under $500. Officials with the county sheriff’s office said he was still at large as of July 28.

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