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True Value thrives in the Big Easy

BY Ken Clark

New Orleans – Luisa Surprenant said things were going great at her store back in Maine, Katahdin True Value. Asked to elaborate, she broke it down: “Customers are coming in, they’re buying stuff, and they’re leaving the store happy.”

Katahdin True Value, named after the state’s tallest mountain, has seen paint and plumbing move particularly well at the store, which is benefitting from the local economy’s housing market.

Scene from the jazz-infused general session.

Surprenant was one of the estimated 2,500 retailers at the True Value Spring Reunion here at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, featuring four days of buying, networking and retail education. Around the market, several retailers expressed complaints about the lack of help from mother nature during the winter selling season. And during the general session, True Value Senior VP of Growth Tim Mills addressed the weather situation by offering free shipment on all of the markets “Wow” items – a giveback valued in the six figures.

Mills also delivered a major message from the event’s general session – the company has doubled size of its field operations – from 70 field reps to 140, in 24 sales regions. With the expanded staff, the Chicago based distributor intends to be “respectfully aggressive in capturing and retaining your business,” he said.

During the New Orleans jazz-infused General Session, True Value recognized its Best Hardware Store in Town contest winner – Westhampton  True Value in Westhampton Beach, N.Y. Other retailers recognized for success in video profiles included Busy Beaver Building Centers, which grew from 14 to 24 stores in the last five years; and Thompson True Value, where a new paint center – True Value’s “Inspiration Realized” program – gave the store’s paint department sales a single-month sales equal to the total of the previous year.

The Best Hardware Store in Town contest announced a winner.

A video profile of Brinkman True Value promoted the strengths of the company’s True Value Rewards loyalty card program. According to Hank Brinkman, the five-store chain has found success in leveraging the data “to build a profile of what customers look like, and target look-alike customers,” he said. “We were able to introduce a lot of new people to our stores.”

All of these stories played on the theme of the True Value Company’s 2020 Spring Reunion: “Thrive.”

Other voices from the market floor reflected efforts to get innovative and try new things. In Annapolis, Md., Jared Littman, owner of K&B True Value in Annapolis, Md., described some successful new tactics. A tech center display for smart home products and home electronics is only a couple of months old, but it’s showing promise – and profits in the form of $250 doorbell kits. The store also recently instituted a single-line queuing system, simplifying the checkout for customers, and promoting impulse item sales for the retailer.

Assortment City featured 35,000 sq. ft. of product.

Christian Johnson, owner of four stores in Minnesota, is one of the early adopters and testers of the True Value Local e-commerce program. The program allows Johnson to promote his local store’s inventory and pricing. It also provides buy-online-pickup-in-store functionality at the click of a button.

“Customers want to look and see that we have what they want,” said Johnson, about one of the key benefits of e-commerce for independent retailers.

It’s still too early to measure the bottom line benefit of the program and measure its ability to protect sales from online giants, he said. But Johnson strongly believes the program allows him to keep up with the way customers shop. “With e-commerce, now, we’re in the game,” he said. “We have to be there.”

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