Hardware Store All-Stars: Conn., Del. and Fla.
Continuing the state-by-state unveiling of hardware store all-stars, here are three more retailers selected by the editors of Home Channel News:
Killingworth True Value
Since gracing the cover of the Home Channel News March 2010 issue, Killingworth True Value president Jackie Cost has seen the word get out about the store’s major renovation. She’s also seen community involvement increase. Case in point, the Killingworth Youth and Family Services division sets up a tent at all of the store’s outdoor special events. Coming up this month: a Mow and Grow event with Husqvarna and Jonathan Green grass seeds.
Rommel’s Ace Hardware
Rommel’s Ace Hardware operates 11 locations on the East Coast, including three in Delaware — Dover, Seaford and Selbyville. The retailer is a part of Rommel Holdings, whose varied interests include four Denny’s restaurants and a Skateland roller skating rink. The motto is clear: “We can get you in, get you help, and get you on your way in 15 minutes or less.”
Sunshine Ace Hardware
Sunshine Ace has six locations in South Florida, but the downtown Naples store is unlike any of the others, said store manager Sherry Kish. Walk into the sporting goods area and you see a very large fishing boat. Above the boat is a mangrove and beside the mangrove are two large murals depicting the area. And all around, the store uses a cinnamon, beige and green color scheme to hammer home the one-of-a-kind impression.
Coming on Monday, all-stars from Georgia, Hawaii and Idaho.
In Vegas, diverse views of retail’s future
Two educational sessions at the 2011 National Hardware Show showed very different views of what the consumer is looking for from their hardware retailers.
In “Advertising, Adapting to Today’s Consumer: Myths vs. Reality,” James Robisch did his best to debunk the belief that Facebook and Twitter have signed the death warrant for print media. A senior partner of The Farnsworth Group, a market research and consulting firm specializing in the home improvement industry, Robisch shared the results of a recent study of consumers who answered in-depth questions about what types of advertising motivates them to hand over their money.
One of the most surprising results was that 82% of those surveyed are still making purchasing decisions about home improvement projects based on what they see in newspaper inserts and circulars. Another 58% said they base most of their decisions on these flyers.
"Print may be declining, but it’s certainly not dead,” Robisch said.
When asked what they look for, overall, in ads, 87% of the respondents said “products on sale.” Another 74% said “sales or discounted prices." Coupons came in third at 51%. The nationwide survey showed that coupon use is “up significantly,” according to Robisch; couponing is especially popular with the under-30 age group.
“Boom, Box, Echo, the end of big-box retail as we know it” did not predict the implosion of every Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menards on the planet. Although Doug Stephens of Retail Prophet Consulting did say: “It’s conceivable Lowe’s and Home Depot could become nothing but educational centers [where] they sell us nothing but the Kool-Aid.”
Stephens was referring to the notion of big boxes shifting their focus more toward all-encompassing services, solutions and expertise than products: a path that Lowe’s has indeed begun to tread. But the self-described “retail industry futurist” is more concerned with the improbability, as he sees it, of finding a merchandise assortment that can satisfy the increasingly diverse demographics that home improvement stores now serve.
“Markets are diverse and hard to predict, which makes it difficult to buy containers full of goods from China,” he said.
Stephens also pointed to the 120 million sq. ft. of empty big-box space in the United States as evidence that a new retail model was needed; the obvious choice, he said, was one that didn’t require such a big footprint: namely, the Internet.
But there will always be a need for physical stores, and Stephens noted an “urban land grab” among retailers today. He warned, however, that these stores will be much smaller and more efficient. “It’s going to change the supply chain for everyone,” Stephens said.
Product diversity on display in Las Vegas
New faces and veteran exhibitors gathered in the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday for the 2011 National Hardware Show. Always a collection of innovative new products and packaging, this year proved to be no exception, with offerings like the Easy Reach Plant Pulley (you can raise and lower hanging plants to water them) and Heat Zone, a shop light with a heater and a fan, both on display in New Product World.
Larger companies like Flexon, a manufacturer of hoses and watering accessories, took the opportunity to broaden into new categories. Flexon debuted a line of lightweight planters, gardening hand tools (long-handled, short-handled and cutting tools), and even a new wheelbarrow. In the paint and sundries department, Padco — the inventor of the painting pad — brought out a niche line of green products made of 100% recycled plastic, cardboard and soy ink.
Vermont American returned to the show after a 10-year absence with a 12-ft. planogram of power tool accessories. “The hardware show is a great venue to reconnect with your retailers, your key buyers,” said group marketing manager Arthur Stankiewicz. Both current and prospective customers “can get a sense of what it’s like to have Vermont American in your store,” said Stankiewicz, who was pleased with the foot traffic. “We’ve been seeing our customers since before the door opened.”
Robert Bosch Tool Corp. was another vendor that returned to the show after a 10-year absence.
Greg Fuller, CEO of All American Home Center in Downey, Calif., was on the lookout for “high-impulse and disposable or consumable” products for his Southern California hardware store. Once gas passed $4.00 a gallon, Fuller said, consumers pulled back on their spending.
“It’s a repair and fix-it market,” Fuller explained. “So I’m looking for items at lower price points that customers can use up and then come back to get another.” Top of Fuller’s list: dog chews and treats.