Sometimes you end up hitting a home run when you are just trying to get a hit. That is the case with Parkrose Hardware’s new store in Vancouver, Wash. Parkrose’s fourth store opened in March 2017 and has been exceeding expectations ever since.
Parkrose Hardware, one of the retail brands that comprise Central Network Retail Group (CNRG), was a family-owned business in Portland, Ore., that dates back to 1968. CNRG acquired what was then a successful two-store company in 2014. “Parkrose was a great opportunity to be in an important market. The Parkrose brand meant something in the marketplace and had great potential,” explains John Sieggreen, CNRG president.
The 35,000-square-foot store in the Hazel Dell area was a former office building that was extensively upgraded into a Sports Authority store in late 2015. A year later, Sports Authority closed and Parkrose jumped at the opportunity to expand into a prime location, doing their own remodel to modernize the facility and make it customer-friendly.
Brand Manager Michael Nelson and Store Manager Craig Loop were tasked with getting the new store ready, with help from their primary wholesaler, Orgill Inc. “Orgill has played a huge role in helping us develop assortment plans along with all the services they provide such as special end caps and pallet buys to create ads to drive foot traffic,” says Loop.
Adds Nelson, “We mirrored our assortments in our other stores as much as possible. Each store has a different emphasis, but this store has a big emphasis on fasteners, paint, STIHL power equipment, lawn and garden, Carhartt and grills. Lawn and garden has really exceeded our expectations.”
Name-brand products are prominently featured throughout the store. “At the end of the power aisle tools are showcased so that they are visible on the back wall. There’s an easy flow to the store layout and it’s an easy, shoppable experience for customers,” Loop says.
Several changes have been made since the store opened, in response to customer demand. “Lawn and garden was greatly expanded and rental and services are more prominent,” says Sieggreen. The original nursery is now dedicated to just green goods and the hardscapes area has been expanded.
The other Parkrose stores range in size from 15,700 square feet (Vancouver Heights) to 47,700 square feet (Portland). “This is the second Parkrose store we’ve opened with CNRG,” Sieggreen points out. “We’ve thought about how the Parkrose model would translate to a smaller footprint, but we realized it would be a little tight and might not be as visually appealing in how you present categories like fasteners.”
CNRG set an aggressive budget when it opened this store, but the results so far have greatly exceeded expectations. “So far this year we’re 25 percent above last year’s sales, which were double what we expected,” Nelson says. “Customer counts are up 23 percent over last year after a strong first year. The store is exceeding almost every metric.”
The Hazel Dell store is not only the crown jewel of the Parkrose brand, it is the most successful new store CNRG has opened in its seven-plus years of operation.
Driven by Service
Well-merchandised aisles and creative end caps help drive sales, but Nelson and Loop agree that the new store’s success has been driven by its team of dedicated associates.
Loop put together a training program, then put on a job fair and hand selected staff to do the store set-up process, which helped the new hires learn a lot about the product mix.
“There’s a high cost for labor in this market, so we had to double down on training and invest a lot more time in it,” Nelson says.
“We had a mass orientation session to communicate my vision of service. The staff became known as the Hazel Nuts and we did a morning rah-rah huddle to start the day and promote a sense of ownership,” Loop says. “We have a commitment to a fun environment and the daily satisfaction of helping customers solve problems.”
He adds, “How tight your team is determines how successful you are. Associates enjoy coming to work and no one here is unimportant. We have an amazing team of employees.”
Sieggreen says, “We can think we’re pretty smart with real estate, but having the right group of people is key. The quality of our team and the plan Michael, Craig and Dan West put together has been very integral to our success.”
Going Outside For Sales
Niches are an important ingredient to retail success, and Sieggreen has been pleasantly surprised that rental has turned into much more than an add-on, attracting both pros and homeowners.
“Our rental is a full department,” Nelson points out. “I knew there was a real need for it, and it has exceeded our budget forecast and goals. We need to find even more room for it. We rent small backhoes, but most is to mom and pop homeowners.”
Parkrose has grown rental substantially across the company the past four years, giving customers what they are asking for. “Customers can navigate on the rental tab on our website to see rates and equipment availability,” Loop says.
Another bright area for revenue growth is B2B sales, with five outside salespeople out pounding the pavement.
“When we put together the outside sales program, we attracted light industrial near the river. We noticed if we gave them special attention we could get more of their business,” Nelson says. “We started with one outside sales person and then moved quickly to four. Light manufacturing and MRO constitute a multi-million-dollar business for us.”
Future growth will likely come from opening additional stores. “We are aggressively looking for new locations,” Nelson says. “We’re developing people so they are ready to take on the next stores.”
A Team Award
“For CNRG, being honored with the Beacon Award for Best New Store validates the whole process of trying to acquire and grow successful retail brands,” says Sieggreen.
Nelson notes that the whole company takes pride in the Hazel Dell store being honored. “It was a combination of everyone’s hard work,” he says.
Adds Loop, “It’s a huge honor for the team and we’re very proud of our entire team.”