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Griffith boosts Ace spirits in St. Louis

BY HBSDEALER Staff

—Ace CEO Ray Griffith described the economy as the “800-pound gorilla” in the room and a challenge as tough as the retail competition.

Speaking here at the Ace Fall Convention during a general session, Griffith pointed to some positive stats. Ace’s operating expenses are expected to be some $16 million below 2007. Comp-store sales at Ace were down in the second quarter, but not as far down as big-box competitors.

Through August, bottom line income stands at $57.3 million, ahead of last year’s $52.7 million.

“Ace financially is rock solid, and the brand is vibrant, folks,” he told the assembled dealers, who interrupted his 35-minute speech to applaud several times.

A feeling of conservative merchandising hung over the several dealers in St. Louis, who said they were responding to economic conditions with a conservative merchandising strategy. “We’re not looking to gout on a limb and try fancy new products,” said Jim Lee, manager of one of two King’s Ace Hardware stores in Billings, Mont. “We’ll stick with what we know and do our very best.”

During the co-op’s merchandising presentation, Lori Bossmann, Ace’s vp-merchandising, marketing and advertising announced market share gains in the paint category, from 2 percent to 4 percent overall. She also pointed to an opportunity to sell more to customers throughout the store, as about 48 percent of shoppers buy only one item per visit. “What an opportunity,” she said.

Also described as an opportunity for dealers is environmentally friendly products. “Green products are the fastest growing market segment in the lawn and garden industry,” said Guy Duvall, lawn and garden merchandise manager.

Ace has opened 66 new stores so far this year, with 29 branch stores, 24 new investors and 13 conversions and have 109 prospects registered at the St. Louis convention.

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Arthur Blank named chairman of Golf & Tennis Pro Shop

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank has been named chairman of the board for Golf & Tennis Pro Shop, owner and operator of PGA Tour Superstores. The move also marked Blank’s debut on the company’s board of directors.

Blank replaces Golf & Tennis Pro Shop founder Bill Hamlin, who is retiring, according to a statement from the company.

Blank is described as having been a “significant investor” in the company since 2006. He also serves as CEO of the Atlanta Falcons.

“I am honored to be leading the board of this exciting retail concept,” Blank said in a statement. “PGA Tour Superstore has real potential to further solidify its leadership position in the golf and tennis retail segments, by continuing to enhance its business model and through future store growth. I, along with our other board members, look forward to guiding the company in both these areas.”

The company was founded in 2004 and has since grown to 10 superstores nationwide.

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Vermilion Hardware to close after almost 150 years

BY HBSDEALER Staff

After nearly 150 years — 62 in the same family — Vermilion Hardware in Vermilion, Ohio, will be closing its doors before the end of the year, according to the Chronicle-Telegram newspaper.

The store, purchased by Henry and Edna Bailey in 1946, is now being run by their granddaughter, president Denise Fahrney, 34, as well as Fahrney’s father and sister. It is the oldest business in Vermilion.

Andy Grote, one of 10 store employees, said the store will probably close by mid-November.

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