Stihl Hardware All Stars: Ind., Kan., and Mass.
HBSDealer editors like to say: It takes a little more to be a Stihl Hardware All Star. The 2017 list of 50 hardware stores from 50 states supports that maxim with a tremendous variety of stores.
Case in point: The three profiles below range from single-store Santa Claus Hardware to 32-location Rocky’s Ace Hardware.
Since 2011, HBSDealer has reached out to suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, vendors, retailers and homeowners in search of high-performing, service-oriented, community-minded hardware stores, lumberyards or farm and ranch dealers worthy of All Star status.
It’s a tribute to this industry that each year brings a surplus of high-quality nominations. The companies profiled have earned their place on the list of 50 — and they join an elite fraternity of honorees. Here’s to the class of 2017.
Santa Claus Hardware
Beyond the novelty of the name, which has garnered its share of publicity and curiosity seekers, Santa Claus Hardware aims to be the one-stop-shop for its customers year round. It receives two shipments per week from its warehouse and boasts it can place any item in its online catalog on the next delivery truck. Santa Claus Hardware does great business during Christmas season, led by its awe-inspiring array of decorative lighting.
Flatlanders Farm & Home
This farm and ranch retailer in Hugoton, Kansas, encourages customers to “Harvest the Good Life.” Serving the needs of Southwest Kansas with everyday items for work and home, as well as “gotta haves.” Apparel and accessories sell well, as do guns and ammo.
Rocky’s Ace Hardware
One of the nation’s largest Ace dealers with 32 stores in New England and Florida, Springfield, Mass.-based Rocky’s is on the move. Last year it expanded into Maine, with the acquisition of tradition-rich Rogers Ace Hardware in Bath. And the “Re-Discover Rocky’s” concept is guiding grand Re-Openings across the chain, promising hardware, home improvement and beyond. Renowned for its operational excellence, Rocky’s also has a passion for philanthropy. For instance, it organizes an annual holiday season food drive for homeless pets – now in its sixth year, and growing every year.
In Stores Now: Dynatrap on the endcap
Across the hardware store spectrum, an effort is underway to wow customers with a regular dose of hot products, and endcaps are the logical place to tell the story. Sophisticated programs are leaning on merchandising best practices.
Creating excitement in the store while getting credit for introducing shoppers to new products are two of the increasiongly effective retail strategies. It helps when stores continually roll in new products, keeping their endcaps fresh.
Case in point: At Thriftway Home Center in Boise, Idaho, an endcap promotes an Ace Hardware "New & Now" featured product — a specially priced Dynatrap Ultralight Insect Trap. (The deal runs through the month of June.)
Dynatrap is building a name as bug killer. The ultralight insect trap features an ultraviolet fluorescent bulb that attracts a variety of insects and an exclusive titanium dioxide-coated surface, which produces carbon dioxide and attracts mosquitos.
Bugs check in but they can't check out, thanks partly to a "whisper-quiet" vacuum.
Marketing Magic: A-1’s Golden Party
How successful is the A-1 Irrigation Customer Appreciation Day event? “People actually plan their vacations around it,” said Stuart Holthaus, general manager of the Valley Center, California home improvement retailer. “I’ve heard that several times from customers.”
The event has also proven to be pretty successful as a business builder. Holthaus says that revenue has grown by a factor of nearly 10 since the company started hosting customer appreciation events 19 years ago. He lays out the math: in 1996, monthly sales hovered around $55,000. Now they come in around $500,000.
Stuart says the team takes pride in organizing the event, and watching it generate results and build customer relationships. It started in 1996 as a simple cook out in the front parking lot. Last month, the special 50th anniversary A1 Customer Appreciation Day fed some 550 people in two hours. Some of the highlights were pit barbecue that cooked all through the night, homemade guacamole and music from the local Millionaire Beach Bums.
Two customers received $500 A-1 shopping sprees.
The event has always been open and free to the public. Vendors are also free to join and set up a booth, as long as they contribute prizes to the raffle.
The event has certainly taken on a life of its own. Has it gone too far? “I don’t think you can ever go too far for our Customer Appreciation Day,” answered. “Has it reached its capacity? Probably.”
Owned by Jack and Carolyn Bose, the 14,000 square foot A-1 Irrigation Do it Best Hardware was created in 1967 as an irrigation supply store serving avocado and orange farmers. It steadily expanded to parts, hardware and other building supplies into a multi-purpose home improvement store.
“The customer is number one” said Holthaus. “And I believe this event is a way to say thank you to them for their business.”