True Value has the ‘green’

Spring show in Chicago is all about helping dealers get in tune with deals.
True Value show Dan Gay
True Value hardware owner Dan Gay, here at the spring show, is the fourth generation owner of his family business.

The deals were ready for these dealers.

All to save some “green” on a green-themed Irish weekend.

“It’s nice to get out, get face to face with vendors again, and touch and feel products.”

That’s Dan Gay, stopping to talk, along with wife Katina.

He’s the fourth-generation owner of 110-year-old Gay’s True Value hardware store in Pennsylvania, and this is the first time they’ve come out to an industry show in four years. They picked St Patrick’s Day weekend in Chicago.

The True Value spring 2023 Reunion convened back here at McCormick Place’s west hall.

“We’re glad to be here at this show, glad to be celebrating St. Paddy’s Day here too. Business is strong for us. As far as segments go, we’re huge on paint – we’re the biggest paint dealer in our state,” he said with a grin.

They moved off with their cart, peering at rows of tables, searching for discounts, snapping photos of product descriptions, and doing quite a bit of pointing, nodding and laughing along the way.

True Value spring Reunion 2023 attendees enjoying all the product offerings and price comparisons.
Tue Value spring Reunion 2023 show attendees enjoying all the product offerings and price comparisons.

Very early on that first morning, just after the gates were thrown open on the show, a vendor had been cranking REO Speedwagon, and it echoed across the entire show floor:

“I will be here when you are ready,” the tune blasted. (Message in the air?)

The REO singer kept on belting out: “Keep on rollin’, keep on rollin.’”

Was there a subtle theme being expressed to the crowd of True Value dealers browsing for deals and discounts and thinking of their St. Patrick’s Day weekend plans in Chicago?

“Let’s buy and sell more together,” said Chris Kempa, CEO of True Value to a crowd of True Value owners during the morning’s general session prior to the show floor opening.

The early morning crowd at the general session hears about margin and pricing analysis – along with a CEO message of the company being there to help them, being ready when they are.
The early morning crowd at the general session hears about margin and pricing analysis – along with a CEO message of the company being there to help them, being ready when they are.

In a follow-on to that message, Eric Lane, senior VP of sales, joined the stage to the sounds of The Rolling Stones music and said, “POS sharing works best when you’re in a partnership with us.”

He pointed out their Retailer Workbench program, which gives owners access to more than 80 parent company reports, “to compare your store to other stores. And it’s available on any smart device.”

He added that it’s a key today to know what products are working for you and to “put a priority on getting the assortments right, including which ones need upgrading – this is critical.”

Kelly Megel, SVP of marketing came on stage next to tell the audience that a simple goal can be to get your loyal customers to come in your store even one more time, as most sales, 80%, she pointed out, come from those customers.

Following Megel, Jake Kalnitz, senior VP of merchandising and inventory bounded on stage to The Who and brought some of the strongest messages, judging by crowd applauses.

“There’s been 200,000 price changes in the last two years,” he said. “We must optimize price changes. And we have a new tool to help owners with retail price changes. Recently, we tested it on 50 retailers across six hardware categories – and it lifted sales 10%.”

Alonso Sears
Alonso Sears does not make a buy unless he finds his discount comfort zone; he is shown on the hunt at the spring Reunion.

Kalnitz also announced a change in the True Value inventory system coming May 1.

“Our broken-pack ordering will be promoted better to dealers – you only will be required to order 5% full-pack quantities,” he said.

He also noted some new assortments being launched for owners, giving examples of grouping cleaning products together, and also new HVAC product assortments, which he called “behind the wall categories.”

Back out on the show floor, hardware owner Alonso Sears was eyeing products at the end of the housewares aisle.

“I come to this show to take advantage of the deeper discounts. I only buy if it’s 20% off or more,” said Sears, the owner of Woods of Cincinnati Hardware.

Stacey Henry
Stacey Henry, center, and team come to the show from Rapid True Value in Jamaica, ready to buy.

Many of the discount tags on products are in the range from 15% to 25% and deeper.

The west hall of McCormick Place was bright and airy. The good-sized crowd from the general session had spread out into the aisles of Paint, Hardware, Outdoor, Electrical and others.

Three attendees were walking together checking out the offerings.

“We come for the deals. We look at everything and buy anything,” said Stacey Henry, manager of Rapid True Value in Jamaica, a 10-store chain she describes as the largest hardware chain in her country.

Houseware and paint are the “boomers for sales,” she grins, and moves off with her team.

A little later, a family unit of owners are standing out in one of the very wide aisles, groovin’ a little to the rock music in the air and talking – in a mixture of business and weekend plans – among themselves.

Crabtree family
The Crabtree family, all co-owners, came to the show in Chicago to network and have some fun.

“We come here to build relationships,” said Richard Crabtree, with his wife and three grown children around him. “We look for new stuff, and we collect the swag,” he laughs.

They own one store in Ohio and are planning to open three more in the next three years.

“We love this show, and we love all the information we get, and of course connecting with other people here,” his family chimes in. They pause for a group photo – a photogenic family for sure, and move off to get in on a spin-the-wheel raffle down the hall.

“We’re here to help you grow your business,” Chris Kempa had said. “Our team works for you.”

The True Value show assistants were everywhere helping owners find what they wanted. The words were coming true from both the CEO and the song.

He said, “we’re here to help; when you’re ready – we’re here.”

Did he arrange that REO song after all?


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