The Ace Hardware Fall 2022 Convention brought together retailers from around the country to shop hot buys, discover new products and trends and hear from executives on where the company is heading into 2023.
On the show floor, attendees connected with U.S. and international vendors, attended informational sessions at the Retail Training Center and explored New Arrivals and the Savings Showcase.
With an emphasis on grilling and outdoor living, Discovery Edge allowed retailers to explore the latest trends and products in this ever-growing product category. Ace grilling expert Jason Morse shared with retailers how to host live grilling demos in their own stores, and full displays showed off products and ideas for merchandising.
Jake Hurst, sporting goods and barbecue manager for Buck’s Ace Hardware, attended the show with his three brothers, who are also involved with the company, and enjoyed exploring Discovery Edge to see the latest trends and products. The operation has three locations in Utah, each with a robust outdoor living and grilling department, and Hurst found the exhibit helpful for ideas.
“I love the barbecue area,” Hurst says. “We are preparing for an anniversary event in October, so it has been super helpful for picking up ideas for that celebration.”
Rick Stidham, general manager of Wauseon Ace in Wauseon, Ohio, says the convention was a great opportunity to meet other retailers face to face and have facetime with vendors.
Corby Leach, owner of Athens Ace Hardware, brought four of his employees along to the convention. The store became part of Ace Hardware eight months ago, and Leach wanted to connect with service providers and vendors.
“I brought my whole crew because I thought it would be good for all of us to experience a convention together,” he says. “We found several of the Retailer Trainer sessions helpful and were able to connect with vendors.”
Taking on Challenges
NHPA had the opportunity to sit down with John Venhuizen, president and chief executive officer, to talk about the last few months and what is in store for Ace Hardware in the future. He says that in regards to the supply chain issues, numbers are getting quantifiably better.
“While they are better, they are still not nearly where we want them to be,” Venhuizen says. “When you look at labor, it’s also still difficult for retailers, but getting better in our industry of small, family-run businesses, who care for their people. Employers caring about their employees allows them to better recruit and retain quality workers.”
In uncertain times like these, the natural inclination is to hunker down, Venhuizen says, but it is important to remain strategically consistent and control what you can control.
“For over 98 years, Ace Hardware has shown that when we stay true to our game, it serves us well,” he says. “We want to continue to be the best at service and leverage the convenience our retailers offer in their neighborhoods.”
Planning for 2023, Ace Hardware has three main areas of focus, Venhuizen says. The company wants to stay strategically consistent and operationally aggressive. Venhuizen says the company will also stay fiscally conservative, being more judicious with spending while still investing in the resources and capital that are fueling the business.
“We believe we have a plan for what’s working, and we are going to stay consistent with that strategy,” Venhuizen says. “We’re not cutting back on what drives our growth and expands our capacity, which includes all of our retail tools and initiatives and the expansion of our distribution center capacity.”
The convention was also an opportunity for retailers to hear from Ace Hardware executives on the company’s performance in the last year and plans for the future. In light of continuing supply chain issues, Ace Hardware has committed to investing $800 million in the next five years to Ace’s supply chain, focusing on personnel, technology and network expansion, says Lori Bossmann, chief supply chain officer.
“Customer expectations on how we serve them have changed forever,” Bossmann says. “To meet those expectations, our $800 million in investments will allow us to better serve retailers with better fill rates and accuracy and more frequent shipments to stores.”
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