Westlake expands in Carolina
Store-within-a-store pet supply will be part of the new Cary, N.C., location.
Westlake Ace Hardware signed a lease to open a new store in North Carolina. The 20,000 sq.-ft. Cary location in the Hemlock Plaza shopping center is expected to open in the fall of 2018
The new store will boost the Ace retail division’s store count in North Carolina to 10. Westlake Ace currently operates 121 stores in 10 states.
“Becoming part of the Cary community and developing a new Ace Hardware location here from the ground up is particularly exciting for us,” said Joe Jeffries, CEO of Westlake Ace Hardware. “The new store will allow us to deepen our relationship with customers in North Carolina and show them how we live the Ace Helpful Promise every day by delivering reliable service, advice and products to help customers get their projects done right.”
The new store will be branded as Ace Hardware and will have a 13,300 square foot sales floor. It will sell such traditional hardware products as fasteners, tools, plumbing and electric supplies and paint — as well as Stihl outdoor power equipment, lawn and garden supplies, and BBQ products from Traeger and Weber, among others.
The store will also include a unique “store-within-a-store” pet supply department. It will sell an extensive array of pet food, toys, grooming products, health supplies, pre-packed and bulk treats, and other accessories for dogs, cats and other pets. Featured brands will include Blue Buffalo, Science Diet, Nutro, Taste of The Wild, Merrick, and Kong.
Kansas City, Mo.-based Westlake Ace Hardware has been part of the Ace Hardware co-op since 1959 and is its largest member. It was purchased by Ace in 2012, and acts as a wholly owned Ace subsidiary.
Top retailers share their wisdom
Las Vegas — The “Top Guns” of the hardware business shared the stage here at the National Hardware Show, where they also shared best practices and a variety of thoughts on the state of independent retailing today — and in the future.
The Top Guns were selected by the organizers of the 2018 NRHA All-Industry Conference on the basis of high-performance, passion for the industry and connection to the community. Now in its 11th year, the 2018 program honorees (the Top Guns) are:
- Amanda Fancy — Gow’s Home Hardware (Bridgewater, Nova Scotia);
- Jamie Gentner — Center Hardware & Supply (San Francisco);
- Megan Menzer — Newton’s True Value (southeastern Kansas); and
- Angela Merritt — Ederer’s Do it Best (three locations in Wisconsin).
On Tuesday at the Hardware Show, they assembled for a panel discussion of big issues and big challenges. Here are some of the highlights, edited, and arranged by topic:
On how the hardware business is changing:
Amanda Fancy: “The market is changing every day. Definitely, the customer is changing and so is the experience they are looking for in store. For us it’s about creating a culture in our store for our current customers and also to get the millennials into our store.”
Jamie Gentner: “I think there are a lot of changes coming in the next 10 years especially with the rapidity of change. Customer expectations are constantly changing. You have to trust yourself that you are doing right for your business, and you have to keep paying attention.”
Megan Menzer: “Increasingly our job is going to be to educate the consumer. For example. We used to sell paint thinner. Simply paint thinner. Well, now people come in and want brand XYZ and they want it in a 16.1 oz. can, not a 16.2 oz. can. And that is a challenge: educating the employees to convert that customer and make that sale by explaining to them the value of our products is going to continue to be important.”
On challenges faced by the independents:
Megan Menzer: “We all face a lot of the same challenges. For instance, in the past a product that’s hot today would be hot for 18 months. And now all of a sudden, it’s hot today and it’s completely dropped tomorrow. So learning how to get in and get out, it’s a complete gamble. It’s hard to manage. Technology is going to be another real challenge. We just updated all of our software. It’s a huge expense but it has to be done and maintained.”
On hiring and motivating employees:
Angela Merritt: “Moving forward, hiring is going to continue to be a difficult hurdle for most independent retailers. We’re in a small community. I reach out to the local high schools. We try to get the good kids early and try to hang on to them. It’s difficult to find someone who can fling a 50-pound bag of dog food on their shoulder and walk it out to the customer’s car — and do it with a smile on their face.”
Jamie Gentner: “San Francisco has a 2.9% unemployment rate. So it’s hard to find employees. People are looking at your business and asking if they want to work for you. So the way you’re branding yourself matters. They checked you out, and they have access to so much information now.“
Amanda Fancy: “We have gone from a six-days-a-week to seven-days-a-week operation, and for a small town that’s a big deal. So it’s really important for us to keep our people motivated. One thing we do is operate a private staff Facebook page, and we constantly highlight staff and the good things they’ve done in the business.”
On the origins of their careers in hardware retailing:
Amanda Fancy: “About 23 years ago I took a job as a part time cashier at the store and the rest is history.”
Angela Merritt: “I started out young, answering the phone for my parents’ dairy equipment business.”
Jamie Gentner: “I got started when I was eleven.”
On building relationships in their local markets:
Angela Meritt: “It’s about building relationships with your customers. Our main store is in a town that’s pushing 800 people. I know literally everyone in town and what they’re working on at home. When they have that comfort level with you, they want to come back. Each of our three locations have amazing relationships. And I think that makes us literally a part of the communities we’re in.”
On the importance of peer-to-peer networking:
Jamie Gentner: “There’s always someone smarter than you are. Somebody might be able to look at a challenge with fresh eyes. If we don’t help each other, then the big guys win. I would much rather send business to other independents then send them to Lowe’s. Sorry Lowe’s. I know everyone is not comfortable sharing numbers or strategies, because some of you are competing with other independents. But I think we should help each other. “
On looking into the future of their own retail business:
Amanda Fancy: “We are looking to grow, and we’re in the process of starting to build a new store.”
Angela Merritt: “I think in each of our locations, the next 10 years will be tough on some of the other businesses in town, and I think we will become more of a five-and-dime, with hardware. I anticipate in 5 to 10 years, I might be selling beer, in a hardware store. I think what I have in the store is going to change dramatically. I do have a lot of customers who are into the shop-small thing, and it behooves all of us to promote that. I think I’ll just be selling a greater variety of products.”
Let the eagle soar with these Made in USA products
Check out American-made products from Channellock, Campbell, Cashel, Harper Brush and Stihl.
From the Redwood Forests to the New York island, domestic manufacturers seek to leverage the value of the five-syllable phrase: “Made in USA.” They may be in luck, as talk of trade disputes and “America First” policies combine to light a fire under pocketbook patriotism.
And even as diplomacy gets complicated, a recent poll on HBSDealer.com suggests the time is right for Made in USA marketing. More than half of respondents to a survey asking “How would you describe the current demand for made in USA products?” answered “strengthening.”
Meanwhile, only 7% thought demand was “weakening.” That’s a big delta, but it would be way too early for domestic manufacturers to declare victory over the powerful lure of low-price imports. As one reader wrote, “Everyone says they want Made in USA until they have to pay more.”
That sentiment has been expressed by numerous retail industry researchers over the years.
Still, at the National Hardware Show and other hardware conventions around the country, the Made in USA phrase rings in special collections and highlighted areas. Here are a handful of products collected by HBSDealer editors. From blowers to pliers, these products effectively incorporate Made in USA as a part of their feature-benefits promotional pitch.
See five products from Channellock, Campbell, Cashel, Harper Brush and Stihl below:
Channellock 440 Straight Jaw T&G plier
This plier is built to last with a PermaLock fastener to eliminate nut and bolt failure, a patented reinforcing edge to minimize stress breakage and right angle, and laser heat-treated teeth to provide a better, longer lasting grip. According to Channellock, 90% of the company’s products are made in the USA — and 100% of its pliers are as well.
Campbell Swivel Hoist Hook
Campbell, the chain and fittings brand from Apex Tool Group, introduced U.S.-made swivel hoist hooks described as the toughest its ever offered. The new latch and spring assembly is designed for exceptional durability. Hooks are available in blue caron steel or orange alloy steel.
Cashel LLC, maker of a line of durable plastic utility sinks, is now also the maker of a versatile shelf that can be attached to any utility sink, or any other product that could use a shelf. The Shelfie is made from heavy-duty, waterproof and stain-resistant polypropylene. The retail sales price is about $50.
Harper Brush Push Broom
Harper Brush, acquired by The Ames Cos. in November 2017, manufactures a broad line of cleaning tools designed for the pro to hold up to the toughest tasks, whether it’s at the job site or in the home. Harper brooms are proudly made in Fairfield, Iowa, with domestic and globally sourced components. Shown here is model 2224A, the 24-inch Indoor Dry Surface Push Broom.
Stihl MSA 140 C-BQ chainsaw
The MSA 140 C-BQ is the most powerful chainsaw in the Stihl Lightning Battery System. It also delivers 45 minutes of actual cutting time on a single charge. These two features make it a standout for suburban homeowners. It weighs in at an easy-going 8.6 pounds with the AK 30 battery. All in, MSRP is about $350.