In the midst of a national and international pandemic, House-Hasson Hardware conducted its first-ever virtual dealer market—and broke all previous market sales records.
“We were up about 25 percent over the previous year,” said Don Hasson, president of House-Hasson Hardware, America’s largest independent regional hardware distributor. “More dealers made use of the virtual dealer market than come in person to a market.”
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted House-Hasson to conduct an over-the-internet virtual dealer market June 25–26 as a means of protecting dealers, their families, vendors and House-Hasson staff. All market-sourced buying specials were available to dealers, who could also conduct video chat sessions with vendors and House-Hasson staff members.
“Hardware stores and lumberyards were designated as essential businesses from the beginning of the pandemic; they stayed open when others didn’t, or couldn’t,” Hasson said. “Dealers, from what we can tell, are busier than they’ve ever been.”
The summer dealer market is one of three markets House-Hasson holds annually. The summer event typically takes place in Sevierville, Tenn., just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
More than 1,600 dealers registered for the virtual dealer market, about a 25 percent increase over the normal summer dealer market attendance.
The in-person seminars that precede the market floor opening were cancelled. All bonus
buys, pallet buys and other buying specials were offered just as they are at a standard market.
“We’re all about dealer profitability, and many dealers make their margins based on the buying specials available at the markets,” Hasson said. “More dealers taking advantage of the virtual market added to a unique operational situation for us in the middle of a unique national health situation.”
Hasson said that because of increased sales since the pandemic’s start, company sales volume and buying volume have both increased substantially. The burgeoning figures, while a good problem to have, are creating challenges.
“The consequence is that it we’re faced with unprecedented volume, which is having an effect at the present time on how fast we’re filling orders,” he said. “We sent out a letter to our dealers apologizing for whatever effects they’re experiencing.”
He added, “We had a 50 percent sales increase in June—it’s not a simple task to quickly ramp your infrastructure up by 50 percent. We’re working hard and devoting resources to make sure we can effectively handle sales volume, and we have two months to prepare for the next dealer market.”
The fall 2020 dealer market, scheduled for Oct. 29-30, will also be conducted virtually via the internet and video chats. A virtual component will likely be a part of all future dealer markets, even after the resumption of physical attendance at markets, according to Hasson.