As the year hits its midpoint, independent retailers gathering at the United Hardware Fall and Winter Dealer Market gave reports of solid sales in the first and second quarters. At the market, held June 28-30 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, retailers were looking for new ways to invest in their stores and continue the momentum into the second half of the year.
“Product sales at United Hardware have been up 6 percent for the first half of the year and our customers report that their average ticket size is up 8 percent,” says president and CEO Steve Draeger.
Unusual weather patterns, including late snows in some areas and spring flooding in others, have helped push sales upwards. Draeger also attributes the positive first half of the year to retailers’ focus on reinvesting in their stores, whether it’s through a total store overhaul or a single category reset.
“Our markets give customers a lot of opportunities to reinvest in their stores,” he says. “We have a significant number of new vendors at the June market with some creative new products for retailers to try. Many vendors are offering updated assortments so retailers can stay current with trends in key categories.”
Dave and Diane Anderson just celebrated five years at their store, Hazen Hardware Hank in Hazen, North Dakota. “Business has been good this year,” says Dave. “We’re looking forward to all of the special buys available at the market. We also want to find something new we can bring back to our customers.”
When it came to special buys and new products, retailers like the Andersons weren’t disappointed. At the January Market, several vendors offered discounts as deep as 75 percent, which helped retailers get a running start to the year. At the June market, several vendors were once again offering 75 percent discounts on selected assortments.
Key areas of the market included an emphasis on sporting goods, especially ice fishing, and power tools. Retailers at the market could also plan out their 2020 advertising program using the variety of print and electronic advertising tools United Hardware offers.
At the June Buying Market, attendees were introduced to Hardware Hannah. Around the upper midwest, Hardware Hank has become a well-recognized mascot whose friendly face has been United Hardware’s most popular brand. Now, Hardware Hannah is set to join him in promotional efforts. The Dealer response to Hannah was positive and United Hardware looks forward to showcasing her more in the upcoming Markets.
At noon on Friday, Dan Tratensek, publisher of Hardware Retailing magazine, presented “How Retailers Are Competing in the Age of Amazon.” He challenged retailers to think about how their business is attracting customers. He offered several ways retailers could maintain their ground and provide a creative shopping experience that would appeal to a diverse customer base.
“You need to know your customers better than anyone else,” Tratensek says. “Have an online presence that’s personalized to your store and differentiate yourself at every turn. A creative store presence will be critical to appealing to a diverse customer base.”
Mark Jackson, owner of Red Oak Hardware Hank in Red Oak, Iowa, one of the retailers in attendance, agrees that Amazon is a competitor retailers will need to address. For him, one tactic is to offer to match Amazon prices on select items.
“By offering to match price,” he says. “I’m keeping the customers in the store and letting them know I’m at least willing to have a conversation about price. I think most customers want to shop locally, and this lets them know I’m willing to go the extra mile to get their business.” united hardware fall and winter dealer market