Inside Orchard Supply’s neighborhood store
San Jose, California-based Orchard Supply Hardware believes strongly that there is an underserved middle ground in the home improvement industry between the convenient neighborhood hardware store and the big box.
The company is backing up this belief with an investment in the Orchard Supply “neighborhood” format — roughly 36,000 sq. ft. of selling space, plus nurseries of another 8,000 sq. ft. But more than just an innovative real estate play, the company’s new stores set a tone — one that is described internally as “affordable upscale.”
At the end of 2014, 38% of the company’s store base had been converted to the new format. By the end of 2015, it is expected that 65% of the stores will be upgraded.
That will be a big moment, according to Bob Tellier, who was named president of the 74-store chain, a stand-alone division of Lowe’s.
“At the end of the year, we will have turned the tide, with the majority of our stores using the new and consistent format,” he said.
Overall, the company’s goals are to hit 100 stores and $1 billion in sales by the end of 2017.
For its ambition and its attention to detail, the company will accept the 2015 Retailer of the Year award during the National Hardware Show May 5 in Las Vegas.
At Depot, a First phone makeover
Customer service through technology is a common theme throughout the retail world, and it’s one of the strategies pursued aggressively by the biggest player in home improvement.
Take for example, the next generation of the company’s First phone, a mobile POS and Web-enabled, in-store information tool.
During a talk with analysts at the Raymond James Institutional Investors Conference, the Generation 2 First phone was a point of emphasis for The Home Depot’s senior VP finance Richard McPhail.
The original First phone, named for the company’s “Customer First” initiative, rolled out in 2010. At the time, executives at the highest level described it as a way to boost knowledge and communication throughout the store.
According to McPhail, the first generation tool had a few kinks to work out — its overall size, battery life and user interface, among them.
After a two-year effort, the new generation phone has been rolled out to all stores. The company says about 40,000 of the devices have been deployed. It’s still primarily an inventory management tool, but improved. “For the first time, it’s a real customer service device that our associates can use to serve the customer with confidence,” McPhail told investors.
The First phone provides access to homedepot.com, reviews and ratings, and the ability to speed up lines as a mobile POS, both inside and in the garden center. It will soon offer proprietary product selection tools, he said.
The customer service tool designed specifically for the Atlanta-based retailer is a proprietary Zebra Technologies device.
Lowe’s teams up with Habitat for a Speedway home
Lowe's and Habitat for Humanity had some star power on their team last weekend when they raised their hammers for charity.
NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was on-hand to help the two organizations build a new home at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
There were also nearly 100 Lowe's Heroes volunteers at the scene, as well as Johnson's pit crew.
"There's a great need for affordable housing in Las Vegas, across the country and around the world," said Colleen Finn Ridenhour, deputy director for Habitat for Humanity International. "We're grateful to have the support of Lowe's and Jimmie Johnson to help us build a home and raise awareness of the need for volunteers to help us in our mission. As we ramp up construction activity this spring, volunteers will be critical to our success in revitalizing communities and helping families obtain the dream of home ownership."
Visitors to the race track also had a chance to sign up to volunteer their time at a future Habitat build.
Johnson then did the honors of handing the family the key to their new home before heading to the track to race.
"I can't think of a better way to have kicked off race weekend than raising the walls on Friday and celebrating with the family today," Johnson said. "It's just amazing to see what happens when Lowe's and Habitat team up."
The four-bedroom home will be transferred to Henderson, Nevada, where it will be finished.
"We're proud to help Habitat Las Vegas continue its transformational work in Southern Nevada," said Larry Edens, market director for Lowe's Las Vegas stores. "We hope this extraordinary build inspires race fans to support Habitat projects in their own communities."