HARDWARE STORES

Ultra Hardware acquired by HBC

BY HBSDealer Staff

The Howard Berger Co. (HBC) of Cranbury, N.J., acquired Ultra Hardware of Pennsauken, N.J., expanding its worldwide Security Hardware, Builder’s Hardware and Cabinet Hardware businesses. 

HBC will transition Ultra’s operations to HBC’s headquarters in Cranbury.

“We are excited about the opportunity to bring Ultra’s fine products, strong brands and exceptional team to the Howard Berger Co.,” said James Brower, HBC CEO. “The confluence of Ultra’s unique category strength and HBC’s global distribution will allow us to provide our customers a greater product assortment, improved service and increased value.”

Ultra Hardware’s president, Daniel Carpey, said the companies complement each other well. Carpey will be president of Howard Berger’s Security Hardware division.

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Rona shifting away from big-box stores

BY Brae Canlen

Canadian retailer Rona will close 10 of its warehouse-sized stores by the end of the year, shifting its focus to the opening of 25 smaller-format units, the company announced on Feb. 24.

The new focus comes on the heels of a C$151 million loss posted for the company’s fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 25, 2011. This compares with a profit of C$20 million in the same period a year ago.

Net sales for the fourth quarter increased 2.6% to C$1.17 billion. Same-store sales were down 2.3% in the quarter.

The Quebec-based home-improvement chain, Canada’s largest, posted a loss of C$78.4 million for fiscal 2011, compared with C$137.4 million in net income in 2010.

Most of the big-box closings will be in Ontario. The rollout of the 25 smaller stores includes retrofitting and reducing the size of 13 big-box stores. The new “proximity” stores will average 35,000 sq. ft., and the concept will be deployed in 20% of the Rona corporate store network, the company said. The new store has been tested over the past year in Edmonton, Alberta; Repentigny, Québec; and St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Other new plans for the company include the rollout of a new integrated digital platform, which includes the new website rona.ca. In addition, the company will complete a full review of the digital platform and part of the Rona store network in order to adapt to the new social and economic realities influencing the behavior of Canadian consumers.

“The primary objective of the New Realities, New Solutions plan is to bring us closer to consumers, which means being either just a click away, or no more than 10 minutes distance from a Rona store that perfectly meets their needs,” said Robert Dutton, Rona’s president and CEO. 

Luc Rodier, executive VP retail, added: “In response to consumer demand, these stores emphasize service, with more experienced staff and a central service counter that forms the heart of the store and is visible as soon as you enter, along with a more user-friendly layout, a regionally based offering and an optimal choice of products in key categories.”

Rona currently operates 700 retail and distribution locations throughout Canada. 

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True Value emphasizes merchandise moves

BY Ken Clark

Mike Clark is already looking ahead to Christmas. 

During Chicago-based True Value’s 2012 Spring Market general session last month, Clark, the co-op’s senior VP and chief merchandising officer, told member retailers: "We know you’re looking ahead to fall and winter and thinking about what’s going to help you drive your sales."

LED lights are taking center stage in holiday lighting, he said, as the technology represents 35% of unit sales and 50% of dollar sales in the category. True Value also organized 4-, 8- and 12-ft. assortments for the Halloween season. Clark added that 56% of consumers say home improvement stores are their primary destination for holiday decor. 

During his presentation in Orlando, Fla., Clark also said it was no accident that member retailers saw improvements in core categories. "The key is to maintain properly planogramed and updated assortments."

Bulbs were up 9% in the fourth quarter, cleaning chemicals were up 7%, and water heaters and accessories increased 3%. 

Multiple assortment sizes are available in the co-op’s Master Mechanic portable power tool offering, which has been picked up by about 1,100 dealers. Stores with the new assortment are running up 5% in sales, he said.

Plumbing assortments are also getting attention, where the merchandise team has built 75 unique fittings planograms.

An expanded farm and ranch business was also on display in Orlando. The co-op has 1,000 farm and ranch SKUs from 90 top vendors, he said. And they are now available in all 12 of True Value’s distribution centers.

"We are committed to supporting farm and ranch retailers, no matter where they are located," said Clark, who pointed to the creation of a farm-and-ranch retailer council to provide guidance. "We are serious about this business."

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