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Analytics Highlight Paths to Growth

From marketing to inventory management, you can track analytics for nearly every aspect of your operation. That data, while overwhelming at times, is crucial for assessing successes and determining business strategy. For Hartville Hardware & Lumber, tracking analytics has been a key part of its operational strategies since the company started in 1972. 

Company president Scott Sommers attributes the operation’s success over the years to a strong culture, commitment to community and a desire to grow and improve, including using data and analytics to make growth decisions. 

Scott’s uncles, Howard Miller Jr. and Wayne Miller, passed along the focus on data to Scott, his brother Gary Sommers, who serves as chief executive officer of HRM Enterprises, and his cousin Zach Coblentz, chief operating officer of HRM Enterprises. It was important to Howard and Wayne to know which areas of the store were profitable and which areas were performing well so they could make departmental improvements to fuel overall growth, Scott says. And Scott also gives credit to Gary for taking that focus on analytics to another level to fuel further growth. 

“I give credit to Howard and Wayne for starting this culture of tracking a wide variety of data to see how our company measured up, and I give credit to Gary for making it even better,” Scott says. “We continue that legacy of looking at the numbers and using the data to help us grow.”

Currently, leadership at Hartville Hardware & Lumber tracks 25 profit centers, or departments, in the store and looks at a variety of data points in each of those centers to find the areas that are performing well and those that need attention. Sommers says they tie in payroll and other expenses to each of these areas to get a holistic look at the profitability of each department as part of the whole store. 

For example, Scott says he can tell how profitable the paint area is compared to the clothing area compared to tools and make decisions on product assortment and merchandising based on the data. 

“Our data is one of the big reasons we are now so heavily into power tools,” Scott says. “Many retailers say you can’t make any money selling tools, but thanks to analytics, we’ve found it does well for us.”

Leadership just recently started closely tracking employee hours, and every two weeks after a pay period, the managers meet to look at hours spent in each area. Scott says they hope to glean even more information on the profitability of different departments as a result of these labor assessments. 

For an in-depth view, Cody Miller, merchandise manager for the lumber and building materials division, created a gross profit map for the store, which has allowed management to evaluate 4-foot sections of the store for profitability.

Miller graduated from the North American Hardware and Paint Association’s Retail Management Certification Program, and as part of the program, created the gross profit map as his business improvement project. 

At its essence, the tool maps out each aisle and assigns sales data to those spaces. It is a layout of the store in an Excel file that displays gross profit for the last 12 months for each 4-foot section in each aisle of the store.

The gross profit map provides an overhead view of the store, similar to a house blueprint, highlighting the sections that are high performing and those that are underperforming. It identifies underperforming departments and areas of the store and Miller shares that information with purchasing managers, floor managers and leadership so they can make an improvement plan.

“By using the gross profit map, we can easily identify these unprofitable areas. Then once identified, we can develop a plan to increase profitability in these areas,” Miller says. “We have a quick and unique visual on what sections are losing money and need attention, and those that are high performing and have potential for growth.”

Since Miller launched the gross profit map, Hartville Hardware has bought several other stores. The map was used in each of those new stores to gain a quick understanding of how those retail spaces were performing, and the data gathered led to major resets in two of the stores, Miller says. In the six months following the reset, there was a 46% increase in sales overall with the power tools department seeing 49% growth in six months and the addition of several new brands.

“Investing in Cody to attend the Retail Management Certification Program has paid dividends over and over,” Scott says. “It’s added another layer of data and tracking to help fuel our growth.”

Hear More From Scott

Learn more about Hartville Hardware & Lumber’s storied history and dedication to family, community and progress at the 2023 NHPA Independents Conference Aug. 2-3 in Dallas. Scott Sommers is a 2023 NHPA Top Guns honoree and will be joining his fellow honorees for a panel discussion and reception, sponsored by STIHL and the National Hardware Show. Learn more and register here

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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