HARDWARE STORES

Iowa hardware store to close

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Hardware Hank, an Onawa, Iowa-based hardware store that has been in business for 41 years, is closing its doors, according to KPTH Fox 44 News.

The store has been owned by the Rose family since 1968. Paula Rose, who took over the family business from her parents in 1990, has been trying to sell the building for three years. Without a buyer, Hardware Hank will close its doors on May 30, the article said.

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New Colorado hardware store to push conservation

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Conservation Hardware Store & Center, a business that will feature energy efficient products, is expected to open in downtown Colorado Springs, Colo., in May, the Colorado Springs Independent reported.

The store, being opened by former City Council member Richard Skorman, will feature products aimed at cutting the utility bill, including compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), furnace filter whistles and programmable socket strips.

Skorman is known for his campaign to cut local energy use and stave off the need for a new power plant by distributing and installing CFLs, the article said.

Visitors to the store will be able to buy energy efficient products, and will also see examples of environmentally friendly design within the store.  In fact, Skorman hopes Conservation Hardware Store & Center will become one of the state’s few storefronts with an LEED-certified interior. Skorman also hopes to add recycling locations downtown.

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Lowe’s goes global

BY Lisa Girard

While scaling back on new store openings in the United States, Lowe’s is forging ahead into Canada and Mexico, president and COO Larry Stone confirmed last month at the Raymond James 30th Annual Institutional Investors Conference in Orlando, Fla.

In February, Lowe’s announced it would open three more stores in Canada by the end of the second quarter, bringing the total number of locations there to 14. The company’s long-awaited entry into Mexico, first announced in January 2007, will take place during Lowe’s 2009 fiscal year, Stone said at the March 11 conference. Two stores are slated to open in Monterrey in January 2010.

In total, Lowe’s will open 60 to 70 new stores this fiscal year, compared to 115 in fiscal 2008.

Stone said he still thinks there’s an opportunity for 100-plus Lowe’s locations in Canada, though it might take five to seven years to complete. The company confirmed that it has been talking to Wal-Mart Stores regarding six recently closed Sam’s Club sites, which are located in the Ontario-based cities of Pickering, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, London, Etobicoke and Cambridge.

Lowe’s first announced in 2005 its intentions to expand into Canada and opened its first three stores in the greater Toronto area in December 2007. The stores, located in South Brampton, Brantford and Hamilton, offer 117,000 sq. ft. of retail sales space, with an additional adjacent garden center of approximately 31,000 sq. ft.

According to Paul McElhone, associate director of the University of Alberta’s School of Retailing, the recession in Canada has, in fact, opened up opportunities for home centers there. Whereas contractors were tough to come by during the hot economy in recent years, rising unemployment has freed them to do smaller jobs, he said.

“We’re seeing a real shift, with people cocooning and staying in their homes,” McElhone said. “For those who have saved money, this is a great time to invest in their homes, and a company like Lowe’s could benefit from that.”

There’s also opportunity in tax breaks. The Canadian government introduced the renovation credit in its budget in January. It offers a return of 13.5% on the Canadian tax payer’s investment (up to $10,000) on a wide range of home renovation projects.

For Lowe’s, the keys will be hiring knowledgeable employees and presenting a consistent message to the Canadian consumer, who normally prefers to buy from Canadian companies, McElhone said.

“Is there room for Lowe’s? I think so. It’s an excellent company whose boutique style merchandising resonates with female consumers,” he said. “What Lowe’s has to do is to communicate that message to the consumer to differentiate itself from Rona and Home Depot.”

Rona, a Canadian company, has 700 locations across Canada, while Home Depot Canada operates in all Canadian provinces with more than 176 stores.

Lowe’s has taken its time getting into the Mexican market, but with homeownership growing at a rapid pace, now is the time, according to chairman and CEO Robert Niblock. “We see Monterrey as a tremendous opportunity to offer Lowe’s products and services to homeowners and commercial customers in a superior shopping environment with customer service that is recognized as among the best in retail,” he said.

Gerardo Patino, East Coast regional director for Pro Mexico, a Mexican federal government institution in charge of strengthening Mexico’s participation in the international economy, said growth in Mexico’s home improvement sector has skyrocketed in the last three years. “It could be a very good opportunity for Lowe’s to grow there, not only in the big cities but in medium-sized cities like Leon and Cancun, which are growing very fast,” he said.

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