No place like home
You can go home again, after all. Ace Hardware Corp. is returning to its Chicago roots for its spring convention, to be held April 1 to 3 at McCormick Place Convention Center. To commemorate its homecoming, the Ace Spring 2011 Convention & Exhibits will focus on the core values and philosophies that transformed this small chain of stores into one of the industry’s leading cooperatives.
The conference will feature seminars, show specials, new products, and retailer and vendor networking events.
One objective of the spring convention is to give buyers access to top brands and innovative ideas. Following is a closer look at the key vendors and product initiatives that will be on display:
The Craftsman booth was a popular place at last fall’s convention, which included a 48-ft. Craftsman tool display. For spring, Ace will showcase a Craftsman set incorporated into the “Convenience” planogram. The set is intended for stores of up to 6,000 sq. ft.
The Battery Place
Batteries have always enjoyed a strong presence in Ace stores. With the addition of The Battery Place, the category has become even bigger and, perhaps, more profitable. At the spring convention, The Battery Place principals will share some early point-of-sale data from the initial launch and discuss what has been done with the program, according to Santo Lee, promotional electrical buyer. “We’re seeing success and hearing success, and now we’ll share some early sales results,” he said. The Battery Place helps buyers tap into the $15 billion battery market by adding a 40-sq.-ft. store-within-a-store display that carries all the batteries a customer would need.
“We are known for providing service and having hard-to-find items,” said Kevin Nyberg of Nyberg’s Ace, one of the test stores. “I find The Battery Place an important niche for our stores, and it ties into our marketing strategy perfectly.” Nyberg called The Battery Place “convenient, helpful and competitively priced.”
Benjamin Moore and Ace Paint
The introduction of the “Two Great Brands, One Superior Opportunity” program proved successful for Ace. The program merges Benjamin Moore’s line of premium interior products with Ace Paint’s core lineup to create a selection that can serve DIY shoppers at various price points. Ace’s goal is to help more than 2,000 stores add the Benjamin Moore paint program by June.
News about the July launch of the Ace brand and primer-in-one will also be revealed at the spring convention. “Our goal is to understand all the needs of paint consumers so we can build programs accordingly,” Rice said. “This will help us generate more revenue dollars for the retailers.”
What is a convention without innovations? Just a networking event, right? Fortunately for attendees, there are new products, innovations and networking opportunities.
With the canning trend in full swing, growing your garden and canning categories is a must, according to Karen Helton, housewares buyer for Ace. “Canning is a strong category for Ace,” she said. “We’ve seen double-digit growth for the past three years, and one of our advantages is the fact that our stores dedicate space to the category year-round and not just in season. It’s definitely a competitive advantage.”
Department 6L will offer discounts on pressure canners and canning accessories. Look for specials on ball canning jars from Jarden Home Products and pressure canners from National Presto.
Department 1C is launching a new cleaning planogram. These 40-ft. business modules will include cleaning tools, mops and brooms. In addition, Phase III will set up the planogram in stores. Off-show deals of 50% will be offered to buyers. As well, buyers who sign up for the complete Discovery set will get their name entered into a daily raffle for an iPod. e
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Building up, branching out
Dorvin Lively is the newest member of Ace Hardware Corp.’s upper-echelon management team — the Ace CFO hired three years ago was promoted to executive VP in January 2011.
Lively talked to Home Channel News about the co-op’s role as a growth engine, and the independent retailer’s fastest routes to high performance. He offers a credible vantage point, and brings a background equally fluent in retail shelves and balance sheets.
Lively was a professional accounting fellow at the Financial Accounting Standards Board in the early 1990s. He later became a senior VP and corporate controller at Toys “R” Us before moving on to Maidenform Brands, and then to Ace Hardware in 2008. In addition to overseeing all financial-related activities of the Chicago-based co-op, Lively looks over retail operations, business technology, retail training and business development.
For independent hardware stores, there are no shortcuts to success, he believes. But there are fundamentals. The following represents some of his free advice along these lines.
On common denominators of a successful retailer:
“There’s not a cookie-cutter answer to what makes a store successful. But for the sake of argument, it always comes down to a few basics. You’ve got to have the right products in the store. You’ve got to have the right amount of inventory. And then you’ve got to have the right people who are willing and eager to serve your customer when they come in the door. You can almost say that that’s the price of entry, and then you begin to differentiate yourself from there.”
On the opportunity for business-to-business customers:
“We believe that in most situations a store owner should try to drive some level of b-to-b business. In almost every small town in America, schools, churches and even local municipalities — they all need hardware-related products; they need things we sell in our stores. It can be the local plumber, handyman guys. We believe that that’s a huge opportunity that in some cases our stores aren’t capturing. Now there are some that do, and they do very well. But this is a point we’ve really been emphasizing in the last year or two.”
On the Craftsman brand’s rollout at Ace stores:
“Last year, we negotiated with Sears to have the exclusive rights to that brand in our channel. It’s not easy to just say, ‘OK take these SKUs and stick them in the store.’ There would be duplicate SKUs, Ace brand maybe, and stores have different footprints. So, it has taken us awhile to develop what we think is an ideal set for most of our different types of stores. We spent quite a bit of time in 2010 getting what we thought was the right set for a suburban market. We’ve been working on different sets for smaller, more urban markets. It’s been a slow process, but we’re really pleased with it. We have a lot of stores that have Craftsman now, and a lot more stores that are just starting to roll it out.”
On Ace’s SAP business IT implementation:
“We spent the last three months working with our retailers and getting feedback, trying to help improve the system, and I think we’ll continue this throughout the year. We knew that there would be what we call ‘optimization’ — or getting it to work the way it was intended. With IT systems, there’s always something that you’d like to do better. I think getting our system stabilized was a huge effort in 2010 as we went live. Now, the focus is optimizing that even more. We needed to modernize our systems internally, partly because we had a lot of old, home-grown systems that were 20 or 30 years old. We need technology to be more efficient and more productive. We want to open more stores and help our existing stores grow, and this implementation is going to give us the backbone to be able to do that.”
On the role of the co-op:
“We at Ace believe that we differentiate ourselves from some of our competitors out there — on the co-op side — in being able to be more than just a wholesaler, but to give our stores the lowest possible cost on the goods and be able to provide them with services and operating methods that help make them better. There will be some that believe they’re good enough, and they don’t need that help. But most of our stores are single-store operators, a very high percentage. And for many of them, it’s always good when you get outside your box and see how somebody else does things. And we do. That’s just one way we help them.”
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Lehman’s Hardware reopens
Lehman’s Hardware, a 56-year-old store that closed after a Feb. 28 flood, will reopen on March 5, according to a notice on its website.
Located in Kidron, Ohio, an hour south of Cleveland, Lehman’s is comprised of several pre-Civil War era buildings that took on 3 ft. of muddy water when a flash flood swept through the area. Local residents — the store serves a large Amish population — helped with the clean-up effort and damage repair.
Lehman’s has posted photos and video footage of the damaged store on its website, along with a invitation to their “massive flood sale,” which runs all month.
“In most cases, the boxes are wet, but the product is undamaged,” said Glenda Lehman Ervine, one of the owners.
Sorry to hear about Lehman
Sorry to hear about Lehman being flooded. Every industry member anywhere close to Kidron should visit this store. Amazing. Serving the Amish, you'll find non-electric products you didn't know still existed. Bob Vereen