Retailers wield the Golden Hammer in Las Vegas
Westlake Ace Hardware and Price Hardware True Value were recognized for excellence during the 2011 Golden Hammer Awards ceremony held at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas.
George Smith, CEO of Lenexa, Kan.-based Westlake Ace Hardware accepted the Retailer of the Year award. John Price accepted the Tools of the Trade award for Price Hardware True Value of Atlanta, Texas.
The two diverse retailers — Westlake operates 88 stores, while Price is a single unit — participated in a panel with Craig Cowart, executive VP and chief merchandising officer of Marvin’s Building Materials and Home Centers, the 2010 Home Channel News Retailer of the Year.
All three companies stress customer service as a competitive advantage in their markets, while Westlake recently launched a company-wide training around the concept of GREAT service
“We created a video that shows good service, bad service and [mediocre] service, and showed it to everyone," Smith said. "It was an ‘aha’ moment.”
Store design factors heavily into the service equation at the 27-store Leeds, Ala.-base Marvin’s, according to Cowart, including a centralized service island. “We tried to work around our mission statement of making customers’ lives easier. The result was a meld of a big box with a hometown feel.”
“Every new store we go through we rationalize SKU by SKU," Cowart said. "Everything is on the table to look at. It’s tough on the merchants, but we’ve gotten a lot more efficient doing more with less.”
In Atlanta, Texas, Price Hardware is benefitting from a recent conversion to the Destination True Value format and also the creation of a store-within-a-store Kitchenette, a high-end kitchen and housewares department run by John’s wife Carol Price.
"Before the housewares remodel, kitchen utensils and toasters were my idea of what a housewares department was," Price said. "But I finally saw what this could be; it was gourmet and it has brought a strong female focus to our store."
Regarding the macroeconomic conditions, Cowart said: “People who have weathered this storm are the ones to contend with.”
Price said he has seen a slight increase in large-ticket items. “I think the economy will get better," he added.
Hardware Store All-Stars: Conn., Del. and Fla.
Continuing the state-by-state unveiling of hardware store all-stars, here are three more retailers selected by the editors of Home Channel News:
Killingworth True Value
Since gracing the cover of the Home Channel News March 2010 issue, Killingworth True Value president Jackie Cost has seen the word get out about the store’s major renovation. She’s also seen community involvement increase. Case in point, the Killingworth Youth and Family Services division sets up a tent at all of the store’s outdoor special events. Coming up this month: a Mow and Grow event with Husqvarna and Jonathan Green grass seeds.
Rommel’s Ace Hardware
Rommel’s Ace Hardware operates 11 locations on the East Coast, including three in Delaware — Dover, Seaford and Selbyville. The retailer is a part of Rommel Holdings, whose varied interests include four Denny’s restaurants and a Skateland roller skating rink. The motto is clear: “We can get you in, get you help, and get you on your way in 15 minutes or less.”
Sunshine Ace Hardware
Sunshine Ace has six locations in South Florida, but the downtown Naples store is unlike any of the others, said store manager Sherry Kish. Walk into the sporting goods area and you see a very large fishing boat. Above the boat is a mangrove and beside the mangrove are two large murals depicting the area. And all around, the store uses a cinnamon, beige and green color scheme to hammer home the one-of-a-kind impression.
Coming on Monday, all-stars from Georgia, Hawaii and Idaho.
In Vegas, diverse views of retail’s future
Two educational sessions at the 2011 National Hardware Show showed very different views of what the consumer is looking for from their hardware retailers.
In “Advertising, Adapting to Today’s Consumer: Myths vs. Reality,” James Robisch did his best to debunk the belief that Facebook and Twitter have signed the death warrant for print media. A senior partner of The Farnsworth Group, a market research and consulting firm specializing in the home improvement industry, Robisch shared the results of a recent study of consumers who answered in-depth questions about what types of advertising motivates them to hand over their money.
One of the most surprising results was that 82% of those surveyed are still making purchasing decisions about home improvement projects based on what they see in newspaper inserts and circulars. Another 58% said they base most of their decisions on these flyers.
"Print may be declining, but it’s certainly not dead,” Robisch said.
When asked what they look for, overall, in ads, 87% of the respondents said “products on sale.” Another 74% said “sales or discounted prices." Coupons came in third at 51%. The nationwide survey showed that coupon use is “up significantly,” according to Robisch; couponing is especially popular with the under-30 age group.
“Boom, Box, Echo, the end of big-box retail as we know it” did not predict the implosion of every Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menards on the planet. Although Doug Stephens of Retail Prophet Consulting did say: “It’s conceivable Lowe’s and Home Depot could become nothing but educational centers [where] they sell us nothing but the Kool-Aid.”
Stephens was referring to the notion of big boxes shifting their focus more toward all-encompassing services, solutions and expertise than products: a path that Lowe’s has indeed begun to tread. But the self-described “retail industry futurist” is more concerned with the improbability, as he sees it, of finding a merchandise assortment that can satisfy the increasingly diverse demographics that home improvement stores now serve.
“Markets are diverse and hard to predict, which makes it difficult to buy containers full of goods from China,” he said.
Stephens also pointed to the 120 million sq. ft. of empty big-box space in the United States as evidence that a new retail model was needed; the obvious choice, he said, was one that didn’t require such a big footprint: namely, the Internet.
But there will always be a need for physical stores, and Stephens noted an “urban land grab” among retailers today. He warned, however, that these stores will be much smaller and more efficient. “It’s going to change the supply chain for everyone,” Stephens said.