The North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) hosted its annual State of Independents Conference on Dec. 6 in Chicago, showcasing successful stories of growth from independent operators within the home improvement industry. The event was an opportunity for independent retailers, industry analysts and channel partners to unite and discuss new opportunities for shared success.
Independent retailers spoke on two separate discussion panels and gave keynote presentations on their strategies for growing product departments, expanding diverse businesses and adding store locations to succeed in 2019 and the years ahead.
In addition, industry analysts delivered insight into the economic, logistic and consumer trends shaping the home improvement industry.
Dan Tratensek, executive vice president for NRHA and publisher of Hardware Retailing magazine, and The Farnsworth Group’s Jim Robisch spoke on the health of the industry in the context of the overall retail and economic environments.
“Remodeling is on fire,” Robisch says. “If we’re not buying houses, we’re remodeling. We’re very, very positive and bullish on remodeling.”
Tratensek also presented NRHA research on retailers’ challenges to and opportunities for growth and the product categories they identify as thriving and expanding.
For the first time, more retailers reported that they rank Amazon as their No. 1 competitor than operators who consider Home Depot and Lowe’s their top threats, according to the research.
“Independent retailers have found out how to compete with the big boxes,” Tratensek says. “They are all asking, ‘How do we respond to this online threat?’”
During the conference, Joe Franquinha, owner of Crest Hardware in Brooklyn, New York; Zach Coblentz, division manager for Hartville Hardware in Hartville, Ohio; and Elliot Greenberg, owner of JC Licht in Chicago, gave presentations on how they have grown their distinctly different businesses.
For example, Franquinha grew his family’s urban store by adding a large garden department with a greenhouse that sells live plants year-round. The garden business grew from an outdated 4 feet of space to a destination that contributes one-third of the store’s annual sales.
“You’ve got to keep mixing the pot and seeing what’s new,” to keep business fresh and growing, Franquinha says.
For more coverage of the 2018 State of Independents Conference, check out the February 2019 issue of Hardware Retailing.