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03/07/2022

Orgill explores a retail star

Inside Town & Country Hardware’s development and growth.
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Town & Country Hardware, one of CNRG's early brands.
Town & Country Hardware of North Carolina was one of the early brands to form CNRG.

Orgill’s Central Network Retail Group – a family of 141 stores flying a variety of banners and commonly called CNRG – is on a mission to share best practices across the larger Orgill nation. That mission was on display at the latest Orgill Dealer Market in Orlando, Town & Country Hardware of North Carolina played a starring role.

“We use the stores at CNRG as a laboratory of sorts, so that Orgill can in turn take learnings to its dealer base to help them be more successful,” said John Sieggreen, president of CNRG.

Enter Town & Country, with eight locations in and around Raleigh, N.C.

Orgill and CNRG executives took a deep dive into the development and growth of the brand, which was one of the first retailers to join CNRG, and has shown more than a decade of sustained growth. In addition to the executive presentation – shared live and via livestream – the show floor also featured a replica Town & Country store, staffed by actual Town & Country employees.

“It was an interesting learning experience for us, because we had to learn how to become good at branding ourselves, and how to get consumers to see Town & Country Hardware as an evolution and an improvement in the market,” Sieggreen said.

Phillip Helms, Orgill’s senior VP of merchandising services with responsibility for CNRG supply chain, data integration and merchandising, had a front-row seat to the acquisition and early growth of Town & Country, which prior to 2010 operated as an Ace store.

Among the key first steps, he said, was to make a smooth transition to a new, easy-to-use rewards program allowing customers to keep their points; and develop a mindset among the staff to make the transition as easy on the customer as possible.

“We tried to make that transition as smooth as possible,” Helms said. “Instead of spending time debating or defending the idea that we were no longer related to Ace, we redirected that energy to take care of the customers’ needs.”

If a customer came in with an Ace ad for topsoil, the response was: “Absolutely, how much topsoil do you need today? What’s your project?,” he explained.

The brand also made a deep study of its market, to truly understand the customers and the changing demographics of Raleigh, one of the fastest growing markets in the country. They settled on an effort to focus no convenience, people, services, expanding and rebuilding the core hardware part of the store along with grilling and outdoor living.

"We had to learn how to become good at branding ourselves, and how to get consumers to see Town & Country Hardware as an evolution and an improvement in the market."
John Sieggreen, president CNRG

Success of the Town & Country brand is evidenced by a recent run of seven consecutive years of positive comp-store sales, capped by a 40% gain during the pandemic in 2020.

The brand also focused on moving dollars to the bottom line. Using Orgill pricing indexes to determine price sensitivity across categories, the merchants sharpened prices where they needed to be sharp, and found margin opportunities elsewhere. Working with Tyndale Advisors, Town & Country also developed a more conservative approach to discounts. 

Prior to the shift, “basically, if you were breathing and walked into the store, you got a discount,” Helms said. “We really worked hard to change that.”

Chris DePinto, district manager for Town & Country, said customer loyalty at Town & Country is fueled by a FanBuilder loyalty program (demonstrated inside the replica store at the Orgill market), and also events – including the Franken-pumpkin Halloween event for kids.

Another strategy for success: business development coaching for store managers,  including profit-and-loss statement management, and teaching managers, “the levers they need to pull” to improve the business, he said.

“Some of the managers had that, others did not. But it was our goal to make that a reality,” DePinto said. “What that did for us was get our managers to think like owners. With that ownership comes strong morale, and being happy in their work environment.”

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