Independent retailers gathered in Washington, D.C., to discover new products, attend educational sessions, learn about marketing opportunities and network with industry peers at the True Value Spring Reunion.
The day before the buying show began, retailers were invited to attend the Retail Best Practices Conference on Friday, Feb. 9. The conference featured opening and closing keynote speakers and specific education opportunities for attendees. The buying show kicked off Feb. 10 and comes to an end on Feb. 12.
General Session Provides Updates, Celebrates Retailers’ Independence
When the first full day of the reunion came to a close, retailers attended the general session to learn the latest news and updates from True Value. Live music, trivia and the national anthem kept the crowd engaged. Then, the 2017 Best Hardware Store in Town winners took the stage. The overall winner among all 13 Best Hardware Stores was Handyman True Value in St. Louis.
John Hartmann, True Value president and CEO, started the show off by letting retailers know the True Value team is there to support all independent retailers individually.
“I don’t have to tell you that we had some real distractions in 2017, but those challenges didn’t keep you from being caring, compassionate members of your communities and stepping up in support whenever and wherever needed,” Hartmann says. “And those challenges didn’t keep our Best Hardware Store in Town winners from implementing their plan and their programs throughout the year.”
Hartmann continued to assure attendees that their co-op was there to support them in a variety of ways, including through the company’s new in-store only inventory, a new marketing strategy and a partnership with HomeAdvisor, the largest home services marketplace in the United States.
“We are proud to announce an exclusive national partnership with HomeAdvisor,” Hartmann says. “Having recently acquired Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor has expanded to over 200,000 contractors coast to coast. What you get is access to the largest network of home services providers, allowing you the ability to offer home installation services without any liability.
“This relationship also allows True Value stores to create thousands of new sales opportunities with the contractors who provide these services. And if you have a great contractor you’re already recommending to your customers, they can be added to the HomeAdvisor network as well.”
During the general session, the True Value marketing team gave details on the various ways the company is changing its approach to marketing, with an increasing shift to a digital marketing strategy. Dave Elliott, senior vice president of marketing, spoke about the 2018 marketing plan, which was first announced at the True Value Fall Reunion. Rather than investing in national TV ad campaigns, the team is encouraging retailers to try True Value’s new marketing tools, which include bargains of the month, promotions and social media tools. These tools are all handled by True Value associates, allowing retailers to focus on their businesses.
The new marketing plan will go into affect on April 1, ending the previous plan that required all members to pay for marketing. Now, retailers have the option to pick and choose the tools that comprise their individual marketing plan, making it more specific to their businesses, says Elliott.
“We know that our 2018 plan is a significant change, and we appreciate that,” Elliott says. “But if you’re looking to the future of your independent True Value store, and if you’re looking to ensure that it’s relevant and profitable for you and the next generation, then this is the right plan at the right time.”
The general session also brought news from senior vice president and chief operating officer Abhinav Shukla on inventory, e-commerce and paint, while senior vice president of growth Tim Mills spoke about True Value’s commitment to supporting the growth of retailers businesses.
New Products, Hot Deals and Entertainment
In addition to the educational sessions retailers were able to participate in, the True Value Spring Reunion offered a wide variety of new products and great deals available.
At the show, retailers were all on the hunt for smart home enabled products in a variety of categories.
“We really want to enhance the niche part of our business and this is a great opportunity to touch point with those vendors,” Cody Goeppner, manager of Muller True Value Hardware in Ferdinand, Indiana, says. His operation has been looking into home automation and he took the chance to speak directly with companies in the field to get more information.
Megan Menzer, co-owner and president of Newton’s True Value, a two store operation in Cherryvale, Kansas, was also on the hunt for more smart home products to add to her inventory.
“I discovered a line of garage door openers that can be connected to an app on your phone that are really cool,” Menzer says. “My parents travel a lot, so I could set the app up on my phone so if I need to go check on their dog or bring in their mail, I could look at my phone and see if the garage doors have been closed or open them if I need to.”
While Karla Robson, manager of Slavens True Value in Cortez, Colorado, has recently seen a growing interest from her customers in smart home products, many customers still hold off based on higher price points.
In addition to seeking smart home enabled products, retailers were able to browse different features for specific product categories, including Made in the USA, As Seen on TV and more.
For Chad Koep, owner of three True Value hardware stores in Minnesota, the buying show gave him an opportunity to focus on his newest store and everything its remodel would entail.
“This show is unique for us because we now have a third location we’re remodeling,” Koep says.
Retailers attending the show were also able to spend time with their peers discussing business and taking some time to have fun. After the general session on the first day, retailers were invited to a concert by rock star Pat Benatar. Many also took time to appreciate the nation’s capital by attending museums and visiting a variety of well-known monuments.
“This is my first time in Washington,” Robson says. “I was excited to be able to come out here and I’m planning on visiting the Lincoln Memorial and going to Arlington Cemetery to see the changing of the guard.”
Many retailers added a few extra days before or after the reunion in order to get all their Washington sightseeing in. Menzer even got to tour the U.S. Capitol and part of the White House.
“I love that True Value hosts the reunion is in different areas, giving us a chance to work and spend time in different places,” Menzer says.