Retailer-led panels delivered industry-specific takeaways and anecdotes during the 2017 North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) State of Independents Conference in Chicago on Dec. 7.
Dan Tratensek, executive vice president of NRHA and publisher of Hardware Retailing magazine, and Jim Robisch, of the home improvement research firm The Farnsworth Group, presented industry research about the current state of the home improvement industry and how independent retailers can compete against big boxes and online retailers. Three panels of independent retailers who have successfully differentiated their businesses, whether brick and mortar or online, took the stage to discuss how the research applies to their operations.
To conclude the event, Scott Wright, executive director of the NRHA Retail Leadership Institute, talked about the training and leadership development opportunities that NRHA offers retailers and moderated a panel of successful young retailers who represent the next generation of independent home improvement retailing.
Getting Savvy in Amazon’s World
A primary takeaway from the conference, which was represented in the research and in the retailer panels, is that independent retailers need to differentiate their businesses in order to compete in the new, ever-changing retail landscape.
“Retail isn’t what it was just five years ago,” Megan Menzer, owner of two Newton’s True Value stores in southeast Kansas, says. “What a consumer buys today has nothing to do with what they buy next week or next month. The consumer is stimulated constantly, so if they walk in your store and you’re not entertaining them or the packaging isn’t just right, they’re not going to go with your product.”
In order to effectively compete for customers in their local markets, some retailers have enhanced their online presences and have utilized technology in their stores, including Steve Fusek, owner of brick-and-mortar store Fusek’s True Value in Indianapolis and online home improvement business Ron’s Home and Hardware in Speedway, Indiana.
Fusek emphasized how important it is for retailers to have a presence online and to figure out how to become active in e-commerce to effectively compete.
“Technology is the future. There’s not enough urgency,” he says. “Amazon is changing the experience for the customer, and if we don’t change how we interact with people, we will lose.”
Tratensek echoed the value of an online presence for independents, and he feels strongly that independents have experience navigating challenging retail environments and find a way to come out on top.
“There will be a place for savvy independent retailers no matter what comes along,” he says.