National Hardware Show — Reimagine Retail program independent hardware stores
HARDWARE STORES

The future is now for independents

BY Andy Carlo

Las Vegas — What would you do if you had a chance to upgrade your retail strategy with $100,000?

A panel of finalists for the Reimagine Retail program delivered their ideas during a discussion at the National Hardware Show.

Designed to help independent retailers succeed, last year’s prize winner Robert Lau shared how he used the prize to create a café focused on grilling and barbecue elements. Located in Soda Springs, Idaho, Caribou Jack’s Trading Co. just completed an overhaul and complete store reset to make room for the café.

Caribou Jack’s sells hardware, tools and sporting goods, along with farm and ranch supplies. Now the store has the sensory element of smell to go along with the visual brick-and-mortar experience.

“If you feed them, they will come,” said Lau, owner of Caribou Jack’s, which competes against several other independent hardware stores in his town.

This year, the contest focused on technology; and winner Matt Woods plans to implement same-day delivery to customers within a three-mile radius of each of the five Woods Hardware stores in the Cincinnati market.

At Woods Hardware’s downtown Cincinnati location, the company rents just seven parking spaces at a cost of $1,400 per month. It’s not an ideal situation for shoppers or the store. Getting in and out can be difficult.

“Our vision is to virtualize our store,” said Woods, president and CEO of Woods Hardware. “You can click a product, interconnect with us through e-commerce and get your product delivered in the same day.”

After learning his proposal had won the contest, Woods said his company is “ready to rock and roll.”

“Now we just have to hire the team to upgrade our systems.” Woods said. “With this prize, we can start taking steps to put our plan into action.”

Other finalists included The Color House in Wakefield, R.I. The paint and design retailer wants to create a rewards program using social media platforms. In addition to earning rewards for purchases, customers would also earn rewards for referrals, reviews and social media sharing. They would be able to see how close they are to their next reward, and those who engage the most would earn exclusive perks.

The Color House recently opened the e-commerce portion of its business.

“It allows my store to be open 24/7,” said owner Jean Hauser, who brought her background in fashion merchandising and interior design to The Color House more than two decades ago.

Just Grillin, located in Tampa, Fla., zeros in on outdoor living space design services along with grill sales. The company’s long-term plan includes a connected space to allow customers to actually see what their new living space could look like.

Through tablets, mounted TVs and voice-activated smart home assistants, the company will be able to take customers on a virtual tour of their proposed outdoor living renovations. In addition, Just Grillin plans to enhance its marketing approach and website to attract new customers to the in-store connected showroom, according to marketing manager Samuel Curtis.

“Technology does not play a huge roll for us right now but it needs to — that’s where everything is heading,” Curtis said. “We want to automate processes and make our location a destination store.”

Weeks Home Hardware operates four locations in southern Ontario, Canada. Owner Ron Cicuttini wants to use technology to track customers, install self-serve kiosks and build an e-commerce platform. Using an array of digital tools, the business seeks to understand how customers move and interact within the store.

The company also plans to use kiosks at the entrance of its buildings to give customers digital access to flyers and coupons.

“We really do believe if you are going to be successful in the future, you have to have brick-and-mortar and e-commerce,” Cicuttini said.

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