Home » Industry News » Encouraging Trades, Training Among Topics at Women’s Leadership Roundtable
women's leadership

Encouraging Trades, Training Among Topics at Women’s Leadership Roundtable

The North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) hosted its second annual Women’s Leadership Roundtable in Chicago, Dec. 6 during which attendees discussed the value that trades bring to the industry, and the importance of training employees among a variety of other conversations relating to women in leadership positions throughout the independent home improvement channel.

The group included retailers, wholesaler representatives, manufacturers and other members of the independent home improvement industry who gathered for a full day of conversation. Attendees appreciated the opportunity to meet with others who shared similar circumstances but had varied experiences to share.

“It’s nice to be among like-minded people,” Alison Farrington, retail performance manager for Do it Best Corp says. “I attended last year, and it was a great experience.”

First-time attendees also appreciated the atmosphere to learn from others from different backgrounds.

I’ve never done something like this. I like that this is a different mix of people, and I like being able to connect with women and see different points of view and get out of my microclimate of San Francisco,” Jamie Gentner, chief operating officer of Center Hardware and Supply says. 

Revitalizing Trades

During the roundtable, the group agreed that support in the industry for developing the next generation of tradespeople is vital because trades represent a large customer base for many independent home improvement businesses and tradespeople have a knowledge base that could be lost if it isn’t passed on.

“Our main contractors have died, and no one has replaced them,” Sarah Kunstman from Triple B Home Center in southeastern Illinois says.

Gaining support from industry groups and working with schools to promote the benefits of trade professions to students were two avenues the group discussed to bolstering the trade industries.

Investing in Employees

Along with developing and supporting workers in trades, the roundtable attendees discussed the challenges of training and retaining their own employees in a job market with rising minimum wages and low unemployment.

“As soon as a new employee walks in the door, they are set up to do training modules,” Chrissy Busscher, owner of Picton Home Hardware Building Centre in Picton, Ontario, says. “Certain training modules are mandatory, and we have a manager who is firm about that. It’s important to reinforce that because our customers hold us at a certain level for service.”

The group shared strategies for finding qualified, engaged employees who understand the demands of working in retail, including using a recruiting company; offering bonuses for employee referrals; and posting jobs online and in community areas, like churches and neighborhood associations.

The Future of Women in Home Improvement

Women’s Leadership Roundtable participants also talked about how to encourage other women to see home improvement retail as a viable career option, and the group agreed the tide is changing for women in the industry.

In the last ten years, there’s been a massive switch in our dealer-owners, and there are just as many women as men now,” Sherri Amos, director of dealer support at Home Hardware Stores Ltd says. “At the corporate level, too, it’s not being viewed as much as a male-dominated industry by the next generation.”

Attendees also touched on trends and niches they have noticed and started implementing in their businesses, including expanding and updating kitchen departments, lawn and garden and outdoor living.

Click here to learn more about opportunities to participate in future NRHA roundtables.

About Melanie Moul

Melanie Moul
Melanie is the managing editor for the North American Hardware and Paint Association. She has worked for the association since 2016. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking and baking without recipes and watching online makeup tutorials. She and her husband are raising their son and two fur children in Indianapolis.

Check Also

holiday toolkit

Download the Small Business Rising Holiday Toolkit

Kick off Small Business Saturday with the Small Business Rising Holiday Toolkit. Small Business Rising …