Sales and customer counts in 2019 and so far in 2020? Both were up a little, with customer count up about 8 to 10 percent and sales up about 5 percent. I attribute the 2019 increase to a stronger economy. So far, 2020 has been flat or a little down, but we really haven’t had winter in the Midwest. The local economy is looking good with a lot of large developments and housing being built in our area. So, hopefully that will trigger an increase in business.
How is your store competing with online ordering? Can anyone really compete with that? We use the True Value ship-to-store program. When we are able, we also take advantage of price-matching.
Best niche categories? We have a good variety of giftware, sporting goods, firearms and power equipment. We promote these niches through print and social media. One of the biggest promotions for our giftware has been a Ladies Night every December.
New initiatives planned for 2020? We don’t have anything new planned, just tweaking and revising current plans and trying to adapt to the economy.
Jeff Koenen | Reineman’s True Value Hardware | Burlington and Salem, Wis.
Sales and customer counts in 2019 and so far in 2020? We’re up about 12 percent over the previous year. I took over from the previous manager and have been trying to turn the store around. I’m adding technology wherever I can. I’m also going heavy on advertising, mostly online, leveraging as much as possible with a shoestring budget. We’re a summer vacation area, so I’m getting the store ready for warm weather so I can cater to vacationers and landscapers.
How is your store competing with online ordering? I’m not trying to compete with Amazon. I have taken the tactic of selling premium brands and higher-quality products. For example, I sell higher-end power equipment that you can’t buy at Lowe’s.
Best niche categories? To be determined. Right now, though, we sell a lot of Stihl, Honda and Scag power equipment.
New initiatives planned for 2020? I’m doing a whole-store remodel. Recently, I bought racking at a great price. I’m also redoing the lights and creating a Honda showroom. I’m also building an indoor deck to display Weber grills for the summer.
Chris Finethy | Gilford True Value Hardware | Gilford, N.H.
Sales and customer counts in 2019 and so far in 2020? We were up a little bit from 2018, maybe about 10 percent. This year it’s been slow, because we’ve been getting a lot of rain. The local economy is dependent on off-shore oil and gas and that’s down considerably.
How is your store competing with online ordering? With Do it Best as our supplier, we utilize their assistance with e-commerce, but that’s very minimal for us. We don’t do a great deal of online business.
Best niche categories? Our main niches are treated lumber and coastal supplies, which includes vinyl seals, fasteners and other supplies for water construction. We utilize our website to promote those products, but most of our business comes from word of mouth.
New initiatives planned for 2020? Not anything major.
Thomas Chauvin | Chauvin Brothers | Chauvin, La.
Sales and customer counts in 2019 and so far in 2020? We’re up 4.87 percent. It’s been flat so far this year. It’s an election year and this coronavirus is not helping this year. We would have been doing good if we stockpiled dust masks. The buy-local push and our grilling section have done really well this past year. The local economy relies on agriculture, cattle and we have a nuclear bomb assembly plant here, along with wind generators and oil and gas production. The local economy is doing pretty good.
How is your store competing with online ordering? We participate in all of Ace’s programs, and in-store pick-up gives us quite a bit of business. The average sale is a little higher on those orders, too. Most weeks, we get about 40 in-store pick-up orders.
Best niche categories? We’re really good with customer service, having in-stock items and our Traeger grills. About four times a year, we’ll throw what we call “backyard parties” where we set up grills and cook for customers. We usually get 80 to 100 people for those events.
New initiatives planned for 2020? We’re looking to expand our grilling. I don’t mind trying new products, bringing them in and seeing how they do. We’ll keep training employees and Ace has a nice training program. Traeger also has a good video training program that employees can take online.
Trenton Maples | Ace Hardware | Amarillo, Texas
Sales and customer counts in 2019 and so far in 2020? We’re up about 5 percent, and I attribute that to the local economy. So far in 2020, we’re flat. What’s been driving the local economy is a population spike. A lot of people are moving from California to the area.
How is your store competing with online ordering? We’re doing pretty good with in-store pickup. We use the Ace program, and we get two or three orders per week.
Best niche categories? We really don’t have a niche, more like the core categories with paint, plumbing, fasteners, and lawn and garden. We try to have a diverse product offering to help the bottom line.
New initiatives planned for 2020? We will be expanding the greenhouse, bringing in more fruit trees and ornamental trees. We’re looking to get more into specialty-type plants. We’ll support our greenhouse and those new plants with a lot of newspaper advertisements.
Greg Mahler | Hoy’s Hardware | Sweet Home, Ore.