Independent stores highlight holiday category
In recent years, many independent hardware stores have begun to emphasize the holiday category in an effort to become a destination for everything from artificial trees to the latest in designer decorations — and for good reason.
The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American will spend $49.76 on Christmas decorations this year, up from $46.49 in 2006.
And competition is heating up. Home Depot, for instance, intends to double its holiday decor sales in 2007. Todd Santee, Do it Best’s merchandise manager, outdoor living and trim-a-tree, said that when the numbers are in, he expects the co-op will have ordered 5 percent to 10 percent more merchandise for next year than it did for 2007.
Patron’s Do it Best Home Center in Bardstown, Ky., stepped up its Christmas business in 2006, taking a 600-square-foot space that had been used as a rental department and displaying 50 Christmas trees ranging in price from $79 to $500, as well as a variety of lights, wreaths, garlands and other basics.
Patron’s, which sold about 100 trees last year, does get some competition from a nearby Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, and they’re only 40 minutes from Louisville, which has many Christmas outlets.
“Lots of people used to go there [to Louisville], but we have brought a lot of business back here locally, which is a good feeling,” said Krista Foster, store manager.
Elliott Ace Hardware, with four locations in Elm Grove, Wis., has been building up its Christmas business since the early 1990s, flip-flopping the outdoor living department to a trim-a-tree area between November and January.
Hank Bros. True Value Hardware in Paducah, Ky., devotes about 500 square feet to Christmas in each of its two 12,000-square-foot stores, which face competition from two Lowe’s stores, two Wal-Mart Supercenters, a Home Depot and an independent Christmas tree store.
They were the first in their area to bring in pre-lit Christmas trees, and this year introduced the community to no-fluff artificial trees, which can be put up in about five minutes, according to fourth generation owner Chuck Hank. In addition, customers can pay an extra fee to have floor clerks come to their home and set up their trees.
“We may not be the biggest in terms of allocated floor space, but we’re right in there in terms of reputation and business,” he said.
Snap-on names new CEO
Kenosha, Wis.-based Snap-on has named president and COO Nicholas Pinchuk to the post of CEO, replacing Jack Michaels.
Pinchuk, 61, will continue to serve as president, while Michaels, 70, will remain chairman of the board, the company said.
“Nick’s leadership as COO reaffirms that he will guide the corporation’s continued success,” said Michaels.
Pinchuk has been with the company since 2002 and was named president and COO in April.
Snap-on is a global manufacturer and marketer of tools, diagnostics and equipment for professional users.
Pier 1 narrows losses in third quarter
Specialty retailer Pier 1 Imports greatly narrowed its losses in the third quarter to $9.96 million, an improvement over $72.72 million in losses in the same quarter last year.
Sales fell 7 percent to $374.2 million compared with $402.7 million in the same period last year.
Pier 1’s new president and CEO Alex Smith said the narrower losses resulted from a greater emphasis on sustainable margins and lower ticket impulse items in stores.
“We are pleased with our third-quarter margin results, which would have been higher had it not been for the clearance of our Pier 1 Kids merchandise,” Smith noted.
The retailer saw cost savings to the tune of $21.2 million on marketing expenses, $10.8 million in payroll savings and $5.4 million in savings on other general administrative costs.
Smith further said the retailer saw improvements in conversion rates and units per transaction, as well as in total transaction value.
“This is only the beginning; we still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “However, the fact that we achieved these results with less than perfect execution gives me great optimism about our ability to return to profitability and beyond.”