HARDWARE STORES

In Stores Now: Dynatrap on the endcap

BY HBSDealer Staff

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.

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Marketing Magic: A-1’s Golden Party

BY Ken Clark

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.”

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A hardware store grows — and endures — in Brooklyn

BY Steph Koyfman

There are few communities in America that have undergone a more visible, oft-scrutinized, and drastic demographic upheaval than Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. But one young retailer has successfully navigated the complex task of maintaining his father’s legacy and positioning his store for future growth in this environment.

It’s perhaps for this reason he’s one of this year’s Young Retailer of the Year honorees. But Joseph Franquinha, owner of Brooklyn’s Crest True Value Hardware and Urban Garden Center, founded in 1962, is also in possession of a “creative fire” (and a visionary sense for what makes that whole “Urban Garden Center” part successful).

One of Franquinha’s most notable contributions to the store since taking over from his father and his uncle has been the addition of what is now a 5,000-sq.-ft. garden center with a year-round greenhouse.

Williamsburg had already changed a lot by the time the recession hit, but it was at that point that the usual stable of plumber and electrician customers stopped coming in. Instead, the store began to see an influx of DIYers.

“The writing was on the wall to start catering more to the DIY set, and also use this opportunity to maybe differentiate from the normal stock that a hardware store usually carries,” he said.

That’s where the garden came into play. In 2007, he was trying to convince his father that it was a good idea, but he wasn’t sold on the concept. When his father took his first long vacation in 25 years, he began to build the garden center anyway — putting up beams, a pergola and an overhang.

“I thought I was going to get a pat on the back or a pink slip, and I got neither,” he said. “He just said, ‘You better make this work.’”

Now, Franquinha said, the garden comprises roughly one-third of the store’s revenue. When they renovated the store recently, they focused primarily on plants and paint, two categories Franquinha describes as “Amazon-proof.”

“You have to touch them. You have to talk to someone about how much light you have to offer,” he said. “Paint is very much the same way.”

Of course, this breath of new life isn’t only happening at the local level. The leadership of John Hartmann has inspired confidence in Franquinha, who describes the new CEO’s enthusiasm as having a “positive domino effect.”

More than anything, Franquinha feels the imperative of “messing with the formula” of retail at a time when the average hardware store owner is 68 years old (and might feel a lesser sense of urgency to be creative).

It’s experimentation that has allowed Crest True Value to remain relevant, and part of the reason Franquinha, who has an acting background (and was once a professional mascot at Madison Square Garden), was able to satisfy his creative urges while running the family business.

The store was actually already doubling up as a neighborhood art space since his father’s day. In the 90s, a local artist named Gene Pool asked his father for window space to showcase his work, and before they knew it, local artists were participating in the Crest Hardware Art Show.

“My dad always joked that the only way you could tell the difference between hardware and art was the price tag,” he said. “And this was his way of establishing a relationship with the new wave of residents. You had the contractor and electrician right beside the art history major appreciating art in Aisle 2, and Crest became common ground for that.”

But there’s also a strong sense of what it means to not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

“There’s a lot to be said for not bending too much in [the new] direction,” he said. “I could increase margins and only carry certain stuff, but you’d alienate a lot of the people who got you to this point.”

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