Just days after ringing in the new year, retailers hit the floor of the 2018 United Hardware January Buying Market, seeking new products and niche opportunities. United Hardware also used the market, held January 5-7 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, to kick off two brand new programs aimed at helping their customers grow their businesses.
“Strong attendance and buying at the January Market show that our customers are optimistic about the year to come,” says president and CEO Steve Draeger. “We at United Hardware continually look for ways to help them stay relevant to their communities. Retailers who succeed will be those who are not complacent but seek out new opportunities.”
Dave Konrath, owner of Horicon Hardware Hank in Horicon, Wisconsin, came to the market optimistic about the coming year. “Our sales were up more than 10 percent last year,” he says. “Outdoor power equipment and rental are two areas that have done well for us. We’re looking for those new items that will help continue that growth.”
Konrath was among the many retailers browsing through the new products and promotional items areas of the market. But there was also a lot of activity around two new programs United Hardware introduced in automotive and furniture sales.
While many retailers include a small set of car care products, such as fluids and cleaning products, United Hardware’s new program allows them to be automotive parts destinations. The program allows retailers to sell parts for any make or model of vehicle through an online ordering system. There’s also the option of stocking a large selection of car care products, such as tools, cleaners, towing accessories and fluids, as well as items for farm and marine applications. The program is especially suited for those in small communities where there is no existing auto-parts store.
Retailers at the January Market also got to see how they could bring furniture sales into their business. United Hardware’s new furniture program offers access to an extensive warehouse of indoor and outdoor furniture without taking up a lot of floor space. An in-store kiosk allows shoppers to select the piece of furniture they want and have it shipped directly to their homes.
“We’re bringing United’s furniture ordering kiosk into our store and expect that it will do well,” says Robyn Esdohr, co-owner of Coon Rapids Hardware Hank in Coon Rapids, Iowa. She says business this past year has been strong after expanding the size of their salesfloor. “We are here at the market looking for new products to add some variety to what we offer.”
Attendees also gained insights into how ecommerce is changing retail from a presentation by Dan Tratensek, executive vice president of the North American Retail Hardware Association. In his seminar, “Retail Realities in the Age of Amazon,” Tratensek shared research showing how e-commerce is influencing the way consumers shop, and what brick-and-mortar retailers can do to respond.
In an age where e-commerce has an increasing impact on consumer shopping habits, United Hardware’s furniture program is a great example of how brick-and-mortar retailers can still find ways to compete, says Draeger.
“The ordering kiosk has a large, easy-to-use touch screen. It is technology shoppers are already using, and it can bring value to your business,” Draeger says. “Competing in an online environment isn’t necessarily about having every item in your wholesaler’s catalog available on your website, it’s about responding to the needs of your communities and focusing on how to best serve your customers.”