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How’s Business? Business Conditions Across the Country

Second-generation Owner Gregg Wesche has been working at Overland Hardware since 1975.Second-generation Owner Gregg Wesche has been working at Overland Hardware since 1975.»

MIDWEST

Sales and customer counts in 2020? What overall impact has COVID-19 had on your business? We’ve had strong sales, better than 2019 by 20 percent or higher. I guess I attribute that to some of the stay-at-home orders in the area. As far as impact on our business, we’ve made a lot more effort to keep customers safe by cleaning surfaces, and we all wear masks. In St. Louis County, there’s a mask mandate. We haven’t had to bring on additional personnel, but we have worked longer hours.

What’s selling well? Using non-traditional sources of supply? Lawn and garden saw a huge increase in the spring and summer. Bird seed has continued to be real strong. Paint has also shown a huge increase and was particularly big when the first stay-at-home orders were issued. Really, all categories have shown an increase, but lawn and garden has stood out as the biggest gainer over the previous year. Lawn and garden was so big that in November, we’ve already brought in product for next spring. A vendor offered some savings, and with the potential for scarcity, we took in products early. Vendor fills on orders have been poor. We’ve not so much turned to non-traditional suppliers but to suppliers that we didn’t use as often. These are suppliers that we’d order from once or twice a year, and we increased those to once a month to fill in or hit items that our major wholesaler was out of. We have used secondary suppliers to keep product on shelves.

Strongest niche categories? We have a strong, in-store glass screen and window repair. The local big boxes don’t cut glass, and our turnaround time is usually 24 to 48 hours, We’re a lot faster than other hardware or window repair stores. We do thermal panes, too. We see a lot of return customers for our window and screen repair. We set up a repair bench in back and one of our older employees comes in and does three or four hours a day with screen and window repair.

How has the pandemic caused you to approach your website and e-commerce differently? We don’t do much e-commerce nor any type of shipping. Our website is not set up for that. We take phone calls and do curb service. Right now, e-commerce would be on the back burner. My partner and I are in our 60s and not sure we want to put a huge investment into something that we’re not sure how it works.

What have you learned during COVID that will make your business stronger for the future? We’ve been able to adjust on the fly with some problems that have popped up. Sometimes you get set in your ways, and the pandemic has made us think ahead and deal with changes coming at you.

Gregg Wesche
Overland Hardware Co. | Overland, Mo.


NORTHEAST

Mitch Epstein is the owner of Anchor Ace Hardware.Mitch Epstein is the owner of Anchor Ace Hardware.»

Sales and customer counts in 2020? What overall impact has COVID-19 had on your business? It’s been incredible. Sales are up more than 30 percent over last year and customer count is up 15 to 20 percent. Business has been positive, but we’re not happy for the reason.

What’s selling well? Using non-traditional sources of supply? Anything to fix the inside of the home or make it more appealing is selling well. Paint sales are up dramatically. In the spring, lawn and garden was selling very well. Grill sales have also taken off. Plungers, toilet augers and drain openers are up over 20 percent—maybe people staying home and eating more? We have used some non-traditional supply sources, especially for masks and cleaning supplies. That’s been really good, because we’ve developed some strong relationships with new vendors.

Strongest niche categories? We’re known for having odd-size nuts and bolts. We’ve also gotten into grilling, selling a lot of Weber and Traeger grills.

This boat was given as a gift of gratitude by a customer.This boat was given as a gift of gratitude by a customer.»

How has the pandemic caused you to approach your website and e-commerce differently? Our e-commerce has been tremendous. Before, that’s something we never focused on, but the pandemic has forced us to focus on e-commerce and make it a bigger part of our business. More and more people are comfortable with e-commerce, and it’s so convenient. We went from $15,000 online sales last year to $150,000 this year.

What have you learned during COVID that will make your business stronger for the future? We didn’t realize how tightly we are tied to our community. People are thankful we’re open. Even now in November, people thank us every week. We received a small boat as a gift from one of our customers who was at home during the pandemic. All hardware and paint was supplied from the store. The boat actually works and has a small electric motor. He was just so thankful for our help over the years and especially during these last few months.

Mitch Epstein
Anchor Ace Hardware | Denville, N.J.


SOUTH

360 Hardware was established in 2005.360 Hardware was established in 2005.»

Sales and customer counts in 2020? What overall impact has COVID-19 had on your business? It’s actually been very good; we’re probably up about 10 percent. But the stress has been a big impact. Fortunately, we haven’t had to lay off anyone. We’re in a rural, bedroom community, and a lot of people who aren’t going into work now are coming into the store.

What’s selling well? Using non-traditional sources of supply? We’re selling a lot of paint. People are at home doing repairs and projects, and we’re selling a lot of craft paints for furniture. Chalk paint has been selling a lot, too. We’ve been able to show that we have a bigger variety than customers may have thought. We haven’t had to find non-traditional suppliers because True Value manufactures its own paint, and they’ve been able to covert to manufacture liquid cleaners and wipes. We still have those products while other people are out of luck. We’re lucky being with True Value.

360 Hardware sells a lot of baby chicks in the spring.360 Hardware sells a lot of baby chicks in the spring.»

Strongest niche categories? We have a strong gift department and are known for our Stihl power equipment. This spring, we sold a lot of mowers, Toro and Gravely. People are buying zero-turn mowers. We also do good business in YETI® coolers and Purina feed products.

How has the pandemic caused you to approach your website and e-commerce differently? We use the True Value ship-to-store e-commerce platform. We’ve always been big on special orders and have always catered to people who couldn’t get out of their cars. I do a lot of Facebook advertising and have a big Facebook following. In February, we start selling chickens and that goes until the end of May. That’s a huge thing in the winter months.

What have you learned during COVID that will make your business stronger for the future? We have found different options for products. We don’t have to carry 10 different types of a product, but five different items helps. We have looked to buy different brands as options. By thinking about and reviewing our assortment, it has made our business stronger.

Kathy Campbell
360 Hardware & Rental | Manquin, Va.


SOUTHWEST

Trudy Chuoke LeSage hosts a weekly DIY radio show called Happy Handyman, which reaches an audience of 250,000 people.Trudy Chuoke LeSage hosts a weekly DIY radio show called Happy Handyman, which reaches an audience of 250,000 people.»

Sales and customer counts in 2020? What overall impact has COVID-19 had on your business? Sales are great, up about 30 percent over last year. The business side has been great; the emotional side has been hard. It’s been hard on employees, and they’re tired of wearing masks. It’s exhausting to wear a mask all day. But as far as business, we’ve never seen numbers like this.

What’s selling well? Using non-traditional sources of supply? Anything related to paint has been selling really well. We’ve found that people don’t want to go to Depot and Lowe’s, they want to shop local. We’ve needed to boost inventory. Other things that have sold well are tools, lawn and garden and plumbing. We also have a gift department that is doing well. For sourcing, we’ve always turned to non-traditional vendors. We go to the National Hardware Show to find sources, and our sales reps find some things, like disinfectant. But anything with the Lysol name on it, we cannot get. We’ve been able to keep other disinfectants in stock, but some things, like a toilet bowl cleaner, have been harder to stock.

Johnnie Chuoke’s Home & Hardware dates back to 1944.Johnnie Chuoke’s Home & Hardware dates back to 1944.»

Strongest niche categories? Cleaning. We carry products that aren’t just Do it Best that we have found, like air fresheners, air sponges and BioZap air purifiers.

How has the pandemic caused you to approach your website and e-commerce differently? Yes, we have e-commerce, and it’s driven by articles I write that appear in the Houston Chronicle. When people read about products, they come to us. We’ve noticed that we’re selling more outside the state of Texas now—Florida, New York, some in California.

What have you learned during COVID that will make your business stronger for the future? Customer service is never going to go back to the way it was. It’s going to be a deeper level. We can complain about how long we have to spend with curbside deliveries, but it’s going to be like that from now on. We have also learned people are willing to wait for products if we tell them when to expect it.

Trudy Chuoke LeSage
Johnnie Chuoke’s Home & Hardware
San Antonio, Texas


Ramon Cumberbatch is the manager of Hero Ace Hardware.

Ramon Cumberbatch is the manager of Hero Ace Hardware.»

WEST

Sales and customer counts in 2020? What overall impact has COVID-19 had on your business? We run a store in downtown Seattle, and at least one-third of our customers are commuters. Because everyone is staying home, we’re down about 12 percent in customer count. We’ve been maintaining sales with the sale-per-customer rising. Our sister store in a more rural area is up about 40 to 50 percent. As far as impact from COVID-19, business has slowed to a crawl because of lack of employees working downtown. Overall, the impact has been negative.

What’s selling well? Using non-traditional sources of supply? We’ve been selling a lot of paint supplies and mason jars. We just got some jars in, but they will be gone by the end of the week. Painting supplies such as sandpaper have done well, too. Blowers and chainsaws have sold well this season as well. For supply sources, we’ve gone to some different brands from different vendors to fill in and stock merchandise.

Strongest niche categories? Home and garden is a niche we’re known for. We sell small household plants and they have done really well. This year, we’ve sold twice as many as last year. Our largest growth area has been home repair, such as spackle and wall repair.

How has the pandemic caused you to approach your website and e-commerce differently? We have online delivery within a five-mile radius and curbside pickup. Now, we’re making deliveries almost every day. We rolled out our e-commerce site last year and expanded on it. With our e-commerce and delivery services, we’re comparable to Amazon.

What have you learned during COVID that will make your business stronger for the future? Every sale matters. Every customer interaction matters. Each transaction is more valuable. More than just greeting customers, we make sure to ask what we can do for customers. We used to be happy with customers coming in and buying a $1 item. Now, we want to find more ways we can help customers.

Ramon Cumberbatch
Hero Ace Hardware | Seattle, Wash.


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