HARDWARE STORES

CNRG, comebacks and critical thinking

At the National Hardware Show, a retailer talks synergy.

BY HBSDealer Staff

Las Vegas – There were no guarantees that Elliott’s Hardware in Texas and Town and Country Hardware in North Carolina would survive. But according to Philip Helms and Andrea Spencer, they not only made it through rough patches in their history, but they are now two of the highest performing brands in the CNRG family – that’s the Central Network Retail Group.

That was part of the message of a keynote presentation here on day two of the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. Phillip Helms, CNRG’s director of Town and Country and Elliott’s, kicked off the presentation by describing the importance of asking “what if,” to begin critical thinking.  For instance, what if a company could leverage opportunity area, supply chain, and administration while sharing best practices?

Those were some of the ideas that founded CNRG – which intentionally sounds like the noun “synergy.” The retail brand, owned by the distributor Orgill, operates 16 multi-format brands and projects 2019 sales of $385 million.

Both Elliott’s Hardware and Town and Country Hardware  “likely would not be in existence today without the intervention of CNRG,” said Helms.

Their growth to the top of the company’s ranking of sales per square foot is a testament to the value of sharing best practices, leveraging supply chain and administration.

For Elliott’s, founded in 1947, 2011 was the critical year of declining sales, according to Andrea Spencer, granddaughter of the retailer’s founder, Jere Elliott. “The old business model didn’t work in a changing marketplace,” she said from the Village Stage of the National Hardware Show. “We needed help quickly to right the ship.” Since Elliott’s 2012 merger with CNRG, Elliott’s retailer has expanded from three stores to five.

At eight-store Town and Country, comp-store sales have increased for five consecutive years.

According to Helms,  the story of the two brands  reflects CNRG’s commitment to the preservation and success of the independent retailer, and also it reflects the power of synergy. He pointed to the examples of marketing efficiencies – using the exact same (almost) promotional materials for Spring Black Friday events; and for sharing the idea of a Grill Fest Sale, which worked well at both brands.

Looking ahead, CNRG is developing an e-commerce platform. (“It’s a journey, not a destination,” said Helms.) Also, the retailer is emphasizing its vendor-partner relationships and coordinating retail price management.

As for growth. “Stay tuned,” Helms said. “There is more to come.”

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