United Hardware kicked off its 60th anniversary with a bustling January market, where retailers showed positive attitudes and optimism for the coming year.
Despite the colder-than-normal temperatures, the mood at the market, held January 6-8, was upbeat with strong attendance from retailers scanning the market floor for new products and eager to learn more about the services the distributor had to offer.
“It might have been cold outside, but inside, everyone was wearing smiles. Attendance and attitudes were high,” says President and CEO Steve Draeger. “Early reports showed that market sales were ahead of last year’s pace. Our customers are feeling good about the coming year and are ready to invest in their stores.”
One of the most visited areas of the market was the new products area, front and center on the market floor. This year, the area was larger than ever, focusing on more than 500 new products. “We’ve seen a lot of activity around our new products area,” says Draeger. “The cold start to the year means retailers will be selling through winter stock and are more willing to try some new items.”
In addition to new and expanded vendor lines, United Hardware also offered enhancements to several of its programs and services. This included assistance in planning special events using the company’s online AdStudio tools and a solution for adding fresh content to a store’s website.
More retailers at the January market also made use of the co-op’s RF scanner ordering tool. The scanners allow retailers to avoid the paperwork when ordering product on the market floor. In addition to helping them save time, the scanners also gave retailers access to information such as past order history.
“Retailers have really embraced our streamlined ordering process at this market. It gives them a wealth of information and makes ordering easy. That means they can have time for visiting with vendors, learning about new products and best practices,” says Draeger.
The market also included a number of new vendors. For example, a retail-customized credit card financing program drew a lot of attention from market attendees, including Mitch Althoff of Althoff Hardware in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. The program allows retailers like Althoff the ability to offer credit to consumers for large purchases.
“We had a great market and one of the most exciting finds was this financing company that we plan to use to market our large appliance sales,” he says. “This has already been a great category for us. Even though it has a small footprint in the store, it’s giving us good margins. We think this will be a great way to boost sales there.”
Contributing to the high energy of the January market was the celebration of the anniversary of Hardware Hank. This year marks 60 years since a group of independent retailers pooled their resources to form the United Hardware Distributing Company and created the Hardware Hank character as its mascot. At the market, the company marked the occasion with deep discounts on select products, giveaways and entertainment.
According to Draeger, it was an opportunity to thank their members and celebrate the benefits of their distribution model. “This market shows how our customers embrace the way we focus on their profit. They understand that we focus on the true price of getting a product to their door without adding fees. Hardware Hank’s 60th anniversary gives us the perfect opportunity to celebrate their success.”