A merchandising makeover for Ace
Oak Brook, Illinois-based Ace Hardware Corp. announced a restructuring and realignment of its merchandising team – increasing the number of its merchants with direct category responsibility from 26 to more than 40.
At the same time, the company is moving to unify the wholesale merchandising responsibilities for Emery, Jensen and Emery Jensen Distribution – all part of Ace’s Wholesale Holdings division – to the merchandising team in Oak Brook.
A little history: In 2014, Ace Hardware acquired Emery-Waterhouse in the Northeast, marking the first step in creating the co-op’s Ace Wholesale Holdings Division. In 2015, Ace Hardware acquired Jensen Distribution Services based in Spokane, Washington.
Emery Jensen Distribution, the third Ace Wholesale Holdings entity, was created to service independent retailers throughout the Midwest, South and Southeast, as well as large national retailers within the grocery channel.
In a letter to vendors, Ace VP of Merchandising Frank Carroll explained the integration and restructuring will be good for Ace, good for dealers and good for vendors. “With the significant growth we’ve been fortunate to achieve, coupled with the intense competition attacking from all sides, it’s imperative that we adapt out organization to be best positioned for continued growth and long-term success,” he wrote.
The expansion from 26 to 40 merchants will provide better communication between the Ace team and the vendors, he said. More merchants will allow for deeper dives into the details of their respective categories.
The new arrangement officially begins Jan. 1.
Ace is also establishing a channel merchandising team at the current Jensen and Emery headquarters in Washington and Maine, respectively. This group of merchants will focus on four channels: pro lumber and paint, hardware (including lawn and garden specialists), grocery and e-commerce.
During a video presentation Friday with vendors, Ace’s John Surane, executive VP of merchandising, marketing and sales, described the moves as designed to promote growth for the dealer and the vendor. “It’s time,” he said. “It’s been 25 years since we have made any meaningful changes to the structure of the merchandising department.”
Now playing at Ace Hardware: Makers and Grommets
Oak Brook, Illinois-based Ace Hardware has a new relationship with The Grommet, allowing local Makers to promote their products in Ace stores.
This partership raises two questions: What’s a Maker? And what’s The Grommet?
The first is an inventor or small business that launches an innovative consumer product through The Grommet, which is a product launch platform and a network of Makers – more than 2,200 Makers. The Grommet slogan is “Discover what’s next.”
Ace will debut its collaboration with The Grommet in select Ace stores this holiday season and extending through 2017.
"For 92 years, Ace has stood for local small business; for the underdog who dukes it out against the Goliaths of corporate America,” said John Venhuizen, president and CEO, Ace Hardware Corporation. “So the partnership with The Grommet not only aligns with the passions of our local owners, but fuels our desire to further Ace as the place for the dreamers, inventors, innovators and Makers. We are proud to stand with The Grommet and their platform for local makers."
For the launch, 20 unique products from The Grommet, sourced from 15 local Makers, will debut in over 160 Ace stores; assortments will be updated each season. Products are unexpected, newly discovered and fit within at least one of 10 core values that are central to The Grommet’s discovery process, including: Made in the USA; Sustainable Living; Made for a Lifetime; Tech & Innovation; Handcrafted; Independent Maker; Social Enterprises; Philanthropy; Underrepresented Entrepreneurs; and Crowd-funded.
The Grommet has discovered and brought to market dozens of now household brand names, including FitBit, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and SodaStream. To date, they have launched more than 2,200 innovative consumer products and amassed a community of nearly three million early adopters and supporters.
"Since 2008, our mission at The Grommet has been to launch innovative consumer products and help the small businesses behind them to succeed,” said Jules Pieri, Co-founder & CEO of The Grommet.
True Value stores cut energy use with LED retrofit
An LED upgrade has added to Rosenberg True Value Hardware’s bottom line profitably.
The retailer, who operates two True Value stores in Michigan (in the towns of White Cloud and Grant), 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 EarthTronics, Muskegon, Mich.).
“We had researched the idea of changing over to LED lighting,” said owner and CEO Bob Rosenberg. “But, it wasn’t until we discovered the right mix of products that we started to understand that a full conversion made sense. When we combined these products with a rebate incentive from our utility provider, Consumers Energy, we found a cost-cutting solution that would offer a viable, measurable impact to our business.”
The T8 linear tubes, a direct-wire LED, help eliminate the existing florescent ballast and wire AC power directly to the lamp. Earthtronics’ LED linear tubes have a color rendering index above 80 and feature glass tube construction to ensure proper cooling to support high lumen maintenance for a 50,000 hour rated life.
“With LED bulb life at 50,000 hours, we won’t have to replace these new lamps for up to 10 years,” Rosenberg said. This delays future product and labor expense for us. We also learned that LED lighting runs at a lower temperature than florescent lighting, reducing summer cooling costs.”
Instead of purchasing new lighting fixtures for the LED linear tubes, Rosenberg True Value decided to convert its existing eight-foot florescent light fixture to one using four-foot LED linear tubes.
A simple retrofit kit enabled the retailer to forgo the expense of purchasing new light fixtures with additional labor and material costs. It also easily allowed the hardware stores to use the eight-foot metal housing from its existing florescent fixtures and quickly convert them to four-foot LED lighting.
The kit made the conversion from eight-foot tubes to four-foot ones relatively quick and simple. The conversion occurred during hours of operation with little or no inconvenience to the stores’ customers.
“The retrofit kit was easy to install and allowed us to efficiently adapt each fixture,” said Rosenberg. “After a half-day, the installer was able to accomplish each conversion in about 15 minutes per eight-foot fixture. This kept labor costs to a minimum. It also enabled us to complete the whole lighting project in less than three weeks at a labor cost of under $3,500.”
By switching from T8 florescent tube to linear LEDS, the True Value locations were able to decrease the number of the lamps used in the overhead fixtures from four to two, reduce more than 10,500 kilowatt hours and drastically cut their energy bills over the summer. The White Cloud location reduced 5,170 kilowatt hours, while the Grant store cut 4,384 kilowatt hours over the brief summer months.
Rosenberg says initial project analysis estimated a payback period of a little over two years. Ultimately, after the project ended and he received the stores’ third energy bill, Rosenberg learned payback would occur in closer to 18 months. (The total project cost was only $10,700, which includes a $3,300 rebated from Consumers Power.)
“This is the first time we have been able to make a significant cut in what would be considered a fixed expense and succeeded to the point that it will actually improve the health of our business,” he said. “Consumers Power rebates gave us the incentive to pursue a project that led to using LED technology. It is one of the best things that happened to our business in several years.”