The NRHA State of Independents Conference held Dec. 5 in Indianapolis hosted independent retailers, wholesale executives, manufacturers, channel partners and industry experts for a day of future-focused industry presentations and panel discussions.
Jim Robisch, senior partner of market research and consulting firm The Farnsworth Group, and Dan Tratensek, executive vice president of NRHA, presented their analysis of the current state of the home improvement market, using data from the annual Cost of Doing Business Study and retailer responses to industry surveys.
Tratensek also moderated the retailer panel discussions on 2020 growth forecasts and embracing change. Retail panelists included Brian Kabat, president of Kabat’s Ace Hardware stores in Arizona; Leigh Ann Akard, co-owner of Akard True Value Hardware in Zionsville, Indiana; Dave Umber, owner of Umber’s Do it Best Hardware in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Jackie Sacks, co-owner of Round Top Mercantile in Round Top, Texas; Eric Hassett, owner of Hassett Ace Hardware stores in the San Francisco Bay area; and Adam Taylor, owner of Trust PRO Hardware in Indianapolis.
Matthew Mazzone, owner of Mazzone Ace Hardware in Brooklyn, New York, presented on his approach to doing business in a diverse market. He shared how his operation has evolved from serving a primarily Italian neighborhood to meeting the home improvement needs of a widely diverse customer base.
Dawn Ernst, director of IT at Buchheit stores, talked about how she led the development of their proprietary employee management system, Snapshot.
Eric Hassett, owner of Hassett Ace Hardware in the San Francisco Bay area, and Matt Woods, owner and chief operating officer of Woods Hardware in Cincinnati, Ohio, presented together on evolving technology in the home improvement industry and how it has impacted their two distinct multistore operations. Hassett shared how his operation manages Yelp and other online review tools. Woods shared how his operation improved the customer experience in-store and virtually through the use of iPads and a website that provides virtual reality store tours, allowing shoppers to explore each store in 3D and view products on the shelves.