The North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) Village is home to the NRHA All-Industry Conference, which is co-located at the National Hardware Show® in Las Vegas this week. The association presents all of the educational programming of the show, and the NRHA Village provides independent retailer attendees a place to connect with other members of the industry and get to know their association.
This year’s conference theme is “Industry in Evolution,” and each presentation throughout the three days will focus on how independent retailers can remain competitive despite the growth of big boxes, online competitors and changing consumer preferences.
“The industry is changing, and NRHA works to stay ahead of the change and the trends that come with it,” says Bob Cutter, NRHA president and CEO. “We think our speakers at this year’s Conference will offer a number of takeaways that attendees can put into practice in their businesses.”
The conference kicked off today with a keynote presentation from True Value Co. president and CEO John Hartmann. Hartmann discussed how the company’s recent transition away from a co-op model has helped provide retailers with additional opportunities to invest in, and grow, their businesses.
“It’s incumbent on all of us to challenge how things have been,” Hartmann says. “As the channel evolves and shifts, we need to think about how we can come together to better support these businesses. Every day I challenge myself and my team to think differently.”
Next on the stage were sisters Tasha Hilderman and Sarah Rurka of Home Hardware Building Centre— Lloydminster in Alberta. The duo has built a large following on social media and recently visited Facebook headquarters to talk about their strategy as a small business.
“Social media can be good and bad. You can find connection but it can also be a time vampire,” Hilderman says. “The goal is focusing on helping people have more meaningful interactions.”
Jim Robisch, senior partner of The Farnsworth Group, is always a fan favorite at the conference, and this year’s presentation was no exception. Robisch presented “Communicating With the Changing Consumer,” highlighting data that shows how independent retailers can effectively reach their customer base.
“There is no shortage of communication options being use in retail today, but what is most effective in reaching hardware and home improvement shoppers does differ from retailing in general,” he says. “For most markets, a mix of traditional and digital can reach across the wide range of your consumer market segments.”
After lunch today, Scott Wright, executive director of NRHA’s Retail Leadership Institute, led a panel of retailers for a conversation about Leading With Culture. He talked with these retailers about the value of developing a supportive culture from the top down and highlighted components of the Vision Process, a culture evaluation program now available from NRHA.
“Culture is doing things with a shared intent. Every single decision is based on our core values,” says Hassett Ace Hardware owner Eric Hassett. “There isn’t a daily huddle that happens at the store without focusing on the core values. It’s part of our onboarding process. It’s on our website now. It’s ingrained in everything we do.”
Also this afternoon, last year’s Reimagine Retail winner Matt Woods took the stage to talk about how he used the award to develop an e-commerce platform for his Cincinnati-based business.
“Our theme of our stores is bringing local back to hardware,’ he says. “We’re building a brand so that we can distinguish ourselves from the big-box stores.”
Two panels rounded out the afternoon. Dan Tratensek, NRHA executive vice president and Hardware Retailing publisher hosted a panel with manufacturers who discussed how they are supporting independents through the changing industry. A panel of retailers and a representative from the Google customer solutions team talked to Matt Dockrell of Pointy about how retailers can drive in-store traffic with digital solutions.
Stay tuned to Hardware Retailing online and on social media this week to see all the highlights from this year’s conference. Click here for a recap from the Young Retailer of the Year event Monday night.