True Value points to positives
Las Vegas — Anyone who has ever been to a trade show in Las Vegas has probably taken multiple walks through the Hilton Skywalk, where classic photographs of Las Vegas celebrities from Sinatra to Elvis stare out at attendees on their way to the convention center.
This week, many of those pictures have been temporarily replaced by star retailers who have invested in the Destination True Value program.
Destination True Value — the co-op’s flexible store format that includes consistent design and merchandise programs — was again one of the highlighted programs here at the True Value Fall Market held at the Las Vegas Convention. Despite opening, relocating or remodeling more than 2 million sq. ft. of the Destination True Value store space since its introduction in Atlanta in 2007, CEO Lyle Heidemann said, "We feel we’re not moving fast enough." Heidemann proceeded to promote the store remodel program as flexible and cost effective.
"Destination True Value is the best way to draw new customers to your store and stay competitive," he said. He also announced a sweetening of the True Value remodel loan package — from 75% paid back over five years to a fully funded loan paid back over seven years.
During the co-op’s Monday morning general session, following a musical rat pack tribute and a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, Heidemann and other True Value Co. executives promoted initiatives ranging from e-commerce to its expanded Retail Assortment Specials.
Heidemann pointed to some glimmers of hope on the macroeconomic front. If metrics aren’t outright positive, many of them at least aren’t as bad as a year ago. True Value stores are holding their own, he said — down only 0.6% year to date, compared with a 1.45% decline among hardware stores in general, as measured by the Commerce Department. "While we’d all like to see more positive trends. We need to remember that last year at this time things were still getting worse, and this year all indicators are slightly better," he said.
Heidemann also stressed the importance of the "Five P’s" to retail success — place, product, price, people and promotion. For a retailer to survive, it must win in its market on two of the P’s. "And to win big, retailers must win on at least four of the P’s," he said.
True Value’s e-commerce initiative appears to be a high priority, and it is expected to launch this fall. "Our goal is to reach all the customers who research products online before they shop in store," said Carol Wentworth, VP marketing for True Value Co. "That’s 92% of all customers."
The program will allow customers to order for home delivery or ship-to-store, and more than 850 stores are signed up.
Wentworth also pointed to the importance of reaching out to new and younger customers, for whom online circulars, social media and e-mail marketing are important tools.
Organizers say the show has attracted about 10% more retail members than last year’s fall market. More than 1,000 suppliers participated.
Also at the market, True Value is showing off its paint and primer in one, EasyCare Platinum, to compete in one of the fastest-growing paint categories. A battery recycling program responds to the growth of green retailing. And new light bulb planograms were on display in the electrical department.
The company also promoted its analytics tool called "Retailer Workbench," and a price comparison service called "RivalWatch," to help members better compete on price.
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Ace bolsters loyalty program with Visa
Oak Brook, Ill.-based Ace Hardware Corp. is bringing its 19-million strong Ace Rewards customer loyalty program to a new level, with the help of Visa.
The new Ace Rewards Visa has been launched nationwide — marking the first time for a hardware co-op to pair up with one of the big payment networks with a rewards card. Issued by U.S. Bank, the Visa card is available in a consumer version, plus a version designed for small business owners.
“The launch of our Ace Rewards Visa is a strategic tool to increase sales and customer loyalty,” said John Surane, VP marketing, merchandising and paint for Ace. “It is a competitive differentiator and will attract new customers to our brand, as well as provide yet another benefit to current Ace Rewards members.”
The card is offered in conjunction with the existing Ace Rewards customer loyalty program, which currently is available in 2,600 stores across the country and includes 19 million members. Those members may use the card as a way to earn more rewards — both for purchases at Ace Hardware stores and anywhere else Visa is accepted, according to Ace.
Neither card has an annual fee, and cardholders may earn up to 5% in reward dollars to redeem at Ace Hardware stores, 2% on gas and grocery purchases and 1% anywhere Visa is accepted. In addition, cardholders receive a $10 bonus coupon upon signing up for the card.
The version of the card designed for small business owners allows them to obtain additional cards with set spending caps for employees, and then receive detailed card statements to track employee spending.
“While the consumer card helps our customers take care of their homes and get on to the things that matter most in their lives, the small business card provides the type of features that these businesses need to help manage their business, while also stimulating Ace loyalty,” Surane said. “The Ace Rewards Visa is another way that we can exceed our customers’ service expectations, while simultaneously promoting the strength of our brand.”
True Value moves closer to e-commerce
True Value Co.’s 2010 Fall Market in Las Vegas will include sessions called "Get on Board with True Value E-Commerce." Based on the seminar’s description, True Value will introduce e-commerce this fall, allowing customers to order online and pick up merchandise at the member’s store.
Participation in True Value e-commerce will be optional, but training will be required, according to the company’s early announcements.
True Value has been moving toward e-commerce for some time. "This is something we believe we need to do to be competitive,” Lyle Heidemann, president and CEO, told HCN at the co-op’s last fall conference. "You have to be there."
Also at the show’s Las Vegas market Sept. 13-15, True Value will introduce its new and improved True Value Rewards program.
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