Jam Packed with Innovation

BY HBSDealer Staff

With so much innovation affecting hardware and building supply dealers, there’s no time for an introduction — except to say: Ignore at your own risk the following ideas and the spirit of innovation they represent.

Here is a list of all the innovations to jump to: Series 9 Wireless DoorbellLoweBotRyobi Ultra Quiet Garage Door OpenerFreud Diablo Carbide-Tipped Hole Saw3DVR Xperience System GogglesNexgrill Evolution Plus 5-Burner Gas GrillMasonite Front Door AppThe Grommet9 Amp-Hour Lithium BatteryJahn M40 Injection GroutPower of Five, Tile Breaking Pliers, BC ConnectTrue Temper Telescoping Scratch-Free Snow BrushLSSJ Field-Adjustable Jack Rafter Hanger, Cuz-D Straight Flush SawTyvec Protec, ActiClean Self-Cleaning ToiletIsoCore Striking ToolsFlexvolt System, Timber Innovation ActT8 Fluorescent Lamps, Sears "Shop Your Way" and UberOval Brand Fire ProductsDeck Visualizer AppKinetic Water Ram and the Vessi Beer Fermentor.


Series 9 Wireless Doorbell, Honeywell Home and Building Technologies

The music industry has been disrupted beyond all recognition over the past couple of decades — except for doorbells. Ding-dong is about the only option. “Most people probably only think about doorbells when something goes wrong with them,” said Ted Booth, design director, Connected Home, Honeywell Home and Building Technologies. “Honeywell’s new doorbells change that.” Series 9 Wireless Doorbell has built-in and customizable tunes and sounds and a wireless range of 450 feet.


The LoweBot, Lowe's

Star Wars isn’t the only universe with helpful robots. After a successful test at Orchard Supply Hardware, 11 Lowe’s stores in the San Francisco Bay area are engaged in a seems-like-science-fiction test of the LoweBot, a NAVii autonomous retail service robot made by Fellow Robots.

According to Richard Maltsbarger, Lowe’s chief development officer, the LoweBot “captures the potential of robotic assistance of helping customers locate items in our stores. Using several different languages and autonomous navigation systems. On the pragmatic value side, LoweBot performs in-aisle shelf scanning reinforcing our daily processes.”


Customer Behavior Data Analysis, Lowe's

Perhaps the bigger innovation at Lowe’s is its behind-the-scenes ability to puzzle together the billions of data points it gathers from transactions.

Lowe’s Chief Customer Officer Mike McDermott says: “We’re bringing together terabytes of customer data across multiple channels to connect the many different interactions and purchases throughout our omni channel platform. We have built advanced analytic models to bring together individual product purchases at a customer level and classified those purchases as a project. We examined the way our customers navigate that project. We can actually determine how we move customers through their project faster.”

One example: “We know that the consideration period for buying a refrigerator is actually one tenth the consideration period for a kitchen remodel.”


Ryobi Ultra Quiet Garage Door Opener, Ryobi

For noise pollution opponents, garage door openers are getting quieter. Case in point the Ryobi Ultra Quiet Garage Door Opener. The secret is an ultra-powerful motor. Added bonus is the safety sensor and smart device control. The whole package was an innovation award winner from Home Depot.


Freud Diablo Carbide-Tipped Hole Saw, Freud

Also a Depot award winner, the Freud Diablo Carbide-Tipped Hole Saw is a carbide-tipped hole saw to cut both wood and metal, with a design to simplify the attachment process for mounting.


3DVR Xperience System Goggles

Virtual Reality is becoming a marketing reality in the home building world, as will be seen at the International Builders’ Show. For instance, builders armed with the 3DVR Xperience System goggles can  showcase in ultra-realistic three-dimensional images various home options at the click of the button.


Nexgrill Evolution Plus 5-Burner Gas Grill, Nexgrill

The evolution of the grill continues, with the Nexgrill Evolution Plus 5-Burner Gas Grill with Side Burner (also a Depot innovation award winner.) Culinary creativity is fired by the flexibility of choosing between direct heat and infrared cooking. 


Masonite Front Door App, Masonite

Have you ever wanted to show customers how their glass options will look when they are incorporated into the door design? Now there’s an app for that. Tampa, Florida-based Masonite International launched its Masonite Front Door App. It allows homeowners, builders and remodelers to view available glass options for entry doors while on the go using iPhone or iPad. Added bonus: It cuts down on glass inventory in the showroom.


The Grommet, Ace Hardware

There’s even plenty of innovation in how innovative products come to market. Case in point: Ace Hardware’s relationship with The Grommet, a product launch platform and network of creative entrepreneurs and small businesses. (Formerly known as “the Daily Grommet” web site.) Ace debuted its collaboration with The Grommet in select Ace stores over the holidays, and into 2017.


9 Amp-Hour Lithium Battery, Milwaukee

In a move described as a serious step forward in cordless technology, Home Depot in the fourth quarter will be launching a 9 amp-hour lithium battery from Milwaukee. This battery pack is said to deliver up to 5 times the run time and 35% more power than previous iterations. And it runs 60% cooler than standard lithium battery packs.


Jahn M40 Injection Grout, Cathedral Stone Products

You’ve heard about the nation’s crumbling infrastructure during the presidential campaign. Here’s an innovation to stop the crumbling, literally. Cathedral Stone Products’s Jahn M40 injection grout injects into cracks to stabilize masonry piers, walls, arches or building facades. The key is its vapor permeability, greatly reducing the potential for deterioration from salt or the freeze-thaw cycle.


Power of Five, WD-40

After 39 unsuccessful tries, scientists came up with WD-40. And in 2016, WD-40 came up with five ways to apply the world-famous lubricant. The Power of Five lineup includes a Tigger Pro and a Smart Straw — both self explanatory delivery mechanisms. There’s also a Big Blast wide nozzle spray, an EZ-Reach flexible straw spray and a one-gallon soaker.

The marketing department also showed innovation, by introducing the term “task-kicking” to describe the products.


Tile Breaking Pliers, Knipex Tools

Knipex Tools now says breaking tile is as easy as one, two, three. Score the tile with a tile cutter; press a button to adjust pliers to the proper thickness, position and squeeze. That’s the approach with the 10-inch, oil-hardened and German chrome vanadium electric steel Tile Breaking Pliers.


BC Connect, Boise Cascade

Engineered wood products have been around for years. But how to distribute them and sell them more profitably is the question addressed by Boise Cascade’s BC Connect. The latest iteration of the software package helps dealers “track EWP jobs from bid through delivery, store associated documents in one place, give everyone who needs access a visibility from any Internet point, and help dealers have the right information to run a more successful engineered lumber business,” said Tim Debelius, marketing services manager for Boise Cascade Engineered Wood Products.


True Temper Telescoping Scratch-Free Snow Brush

The makers of the True Temper Telescoping Scratch-Free Snow Brush thought outside the box by removing the “brush.” Described as the Snow Brush, with No Brush, the winter weather innovation is made out of an EVA foam, as opposed to rough bristles.


LSSJ Field-Adjustable Jack Rafter Hanger, Simpson Strong-Tie

Pleasanton, California-based Simpson Strong-Tie rolled out an innovative hanger described as an easy and intuitive way to connect rafters to hip/valley beams in roof framing. The LSSJ field-adjustable jack rafter hanger features a versatile, hinged seat that adjusts to typical rafter slopes.


Cuz-D Straight Flush Saw, Cuz-D

The basic design of the circular saw hasn’t changed much in more than 90 years, says the inventor of the Cuz-D Straight Flush saw. Until now. The flagship feature of the Cuz-D is the flush cut ability, for cutting right up against a wall.


Tyvec Protec, DuPont

DuPont has introduced a new line of roofing underlayment designed to offer better walkability in adverse weather conditions. Tyvec Protec also lays flat and is wrinkle-free — and it’s easy to chalk.


ActiClean Self-Cleaning Toilet, American Standard

American Standard’s new ActiClean self-cleaning toilet does more than just flush. It also keeps itself clean. According to American Standard, this eliminates the need for after-market add-on cleaning solutions that are often ineffective. To activate the system, the user presses the button for either a 1-minute Quick Clean or the 10-minute Deep Clean.


IsoCore Striking Tools, Fiskars

For its IsoCore striking tools, which includes hammers, sledge hammers, a maul and a pick, Fiskars was named a finalist in Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards. The patented design absorbs vibration and shock by up to four times when compared to traditional wood-handled tools, reducing the impact felt by the user, the company said.


Flexvolt System, DeWalt

Power tool companies are engaged in a continual game of one-upmanship. The latest “world’s first” from DeWalt is the Flexvolt system, featuring batteries that change voltage as the user changes tools. The system “enhances the user experience with cordless power tools, offering both power and runtime for the jobsite,” said Frank Manarino, president of professional products group for DeWalt. According to its makers, the development means a new era of cutting the cord on power tools.


Timber Innovation Act, American Wood Council

Even legislators have gotten in on the act. The American Wood Council applauded the introduction of the Timber Innovation Act. In addition to advancing R&D, the House bill also includes language allowing the Wood Innovation Grant program to support proposals to use and/or retrofit existing sawmill facilities in areas with high employment to produce mass timber materials.


T8 Fluorescent Lamps, EarthTronics

Innovation lights up Rosenberg True Value Hardware in the Michigan towns of White Cloud and Grant. The stores switched out the existing T8 fluorescent lamps in the stores in favor of 18-watt, 2200 lumen, 4000K, 4-ft. T8 LED linear tubes from 022EarthTronics, Muskegon, Mich. “With LED bulb life at 50,000 hours, we won’t have to replace these new lamps for up to 10 years,” CEO Bob Rosenberg said.


Sears "Shop Your Way" and Uber

There’s talk about the “uber”-fication of retail, and then there’s this: more than 10,000 Sears “Shop Your Way” loyalty members linked their accounts to Uber, the app-based taxi alternative. Every Uber ride they take earns them $2 in loyalty points.


Oval Brand Fire Products

Many innovations begin with looking at the world and asking “why?” Such is the case at Oval Brand Fire Products, which asked: “Why do fire extinguishers have to be round?” The Glendale Heights, Illinois-based company’s  extinguishers are 40% slimmer than traditional products, and that brings flexibility to designers and architects.


Deck Visualizer App, Deckorators

Visualize this on your iPad, or android tablet: a new deck. Deckorators launched a new tablet version of its Deck Visualizer application. The idea is to allow pros to collaborate with customers anywhere.


Kinetic Water Ram, General Pipe Cleaners 

The Kinetic Water Ram from General Pipe Cleaners pulverizes clogs into submission with compressed air. The shock wave bypasses vents and goes around bends to reach the stoppage with only 2% loss of power, according to the company. The compact tools is cleaner than snakes, safer than chemicals, and uses no electrical power or CO2 gas.


Vessi Beer Fermentor, Whirlpool Corporation

And finally, cheers to Whirlpool Corporation along with Indiegogo (the crowdfunding platform) launched the 026Vessi Beer Fermentor and Dispenser system for home brewers. The patent pending Vessi system ferments, carbonates and dispenses home-brewed beer in as little as seven days, compared to other beer fermenting methods that can take four weeks or longer.

“We knew there had to be a better way,” said Noel Dolan, senior manager, Open Innovation & Strategic Partnerships at Whirlpool Corporation.


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How much credit should be given to the co-op business model for the success of the independent hardware and building supply dealer over the last half century?

Readers Respond: Service is tops in 2017

BY HBSDealer Staff

New year, new you, right?

For retailers, this dictum extends to their top-line growth as well. Earlier this week, we asked our readers how they intend to boost revenue in 2017.

The responses were as varied as the possibilities, but so far, there appears to be a clear winner: improve customer service, with 41% of the vote so far.

Other responses were as follows:

Emphasize big-ticket sales: 8% 
Boost advertising and marketing: 10%
Add incentives for sales staff: 8%
Introduce new categories: 20%
Raise prices: 2%
Lower prices, and make it up on volume: 2%
Other: 8%

What are your plans for 2017? Let us know by voting here.


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How much credit should be given to the co-op business model for the success of the independent hardware and building supply dealer over the last half century?