HARDWARE STORES

Sexy novel inspires niche market

BY HBSDealer Staff

We’re not making this up: The steamy, chick-lit best seller “Fifty Shades of Grey” has led to a niche market in at least one hardware store.

According to a segment on WCAU of Philadelphia, Penndel Hardware of Penndel, Pa., is seeing an increase in sales of products and materials used by characters in the novel about a relationship fueled by sadomasochism and bondage. 

One of the key items in this niche: soft cotton rope. The store keeps a list of “Fifty Shades of Grey” items behind the counter, according to the report.

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Orchard Supply responds to big-box pressure

BY Ken Clark

During San Jose, Calif.-based Orchard Supply Hardware’s first-quarter conference call, CEO Mark Baker was asked about challenges posed by Home Depot, which is Baker’s former employer. 

Specifically an analyst brought up Home Depot’s promotional pricing strategies and the implementation of service-boosting program’s at the world’s largest home improvement retailer. “What kind of impact has that had on your expectations of volume?” asked Nick Farwell of the Arbor Group.

Baker, a former chief merchant at Home Depot, credited Home Depot for “doing as well in this current market as we’ll ever expect them.” He added that Orchard is competitive on key items — grills, for instance — that have broad assortments.

Furthermore, surveys indicate the Orchard Supply gets credit from customers as having a higher service component than Home Depot.

However, the comp-store story for the first quarter tilts in favor of Home Depot, which posted positive 5.8% comp-store sales for the first quarter, compared with negative 3.1% for Orchard Supply. 

Despite negative comps in the first quarter, Orchard Supply said May has been “solid,” and the company anticipates positive comp-store sales for the full year. 

Orchard Supply, currently an all-California retailer, plans to expand to the Pacific Northwest in fiscal 2013, Baker said. “The Pacific Northwest is a large and growing garden market. We view this region as a national extension of Orchard’s strong presence and 80-year history in California,” Baker said.

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Cherry Creek store grills its Ace off

BY Ken Clark

In one of the more colorfully named fundraising traditions in all of hardware, a cook out in Colorado raised money for kids. 

The 4th annual Grill Your Ace Off outdoor cooking competition was held at Cherry Creek Ace Hardware in Denver on June 9. Fifteen teams competed for the grand prize, a Big Green Egg ceramic charcoal cooker and bragging rights for the next year.

Cherry Creek Ace Hardware is owned by Andy Carlson of Denver.

Each year, the event is hosted by a Colorado Ace Hardware retailer as a fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network and Children’s Hospital Colorado. With proceeds from this event, it’s estimated that Rocky Mountain Ace Hardware store owners have donated more than $50,000 to Children’s Miracle Network so far in 2012.

As for the actual competition, the "Smoke & Spice" team took home the grand prize for their chicken sushi, Korean short ribs and Banh Mi sliders. A team called “Plumb Crazy Smoke" took home the People’s Choice award for their barbecue ribs.

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