For the second time in 2020, Ace Hardware Corp. will be hosting a fully virtual convention.
The event, slated for Sept. 9-12, is accessible to retailers through Ace Net, the co-op’s website for communicating with retailers, and a convention mobile app.
In March, Ace moved its spring buying show online due to the threat of COVID-19. Ace corporate staff organized the spring event in about one week’s time, and has been planning the virtual Ace Hardware Fall 2020 Convention ever since.
After pulling off the spring convention on short notice, the co-op will be offering a more streamlined and user friendly experience through the fall show, according to John Surane, executive vice president and chief merchandising and sales officer.
Retailers will be able to schedule video meetings with buyers, vendors and project managers, choose from 35 virtual training sessions to attend and participate in interactive live events.
On Sept. 8, retailers will be able to watch a prerecorded keynote interview with former football star Peyton Manning, during which Surane will ask Manning questions that retailers submitted in advance.
“This is to tell the retailers thank you for everything they’ve done to get through the last six months,” Surane says. “It’s a Q&A but also a big toast to Ace retailers the night before the show starts to say, ‘Great job. Thank you.'”
President and CEO John Venhuizen will speak during a virtual general session Sept. 9, and afterward Venhuizen, Surane, vice president of merchandising Brian Wiborg and chief marketing officer Kim Lefko will answer retailer questions live via video.
In addition, four retailers will sit on a live video panel to discuss and answer questions about how to plan for 2021 during a turbulent 2020.
The virtual convention is still very much a buying show, and retailers will have access to special show pricing, as well as get help from Ace staff to work through assortment and inventory challenges they have faced due to the pandemic. About 7,000 special deals on products will be available, Surane says.
Ace is still planning for an in-person convention March 11-13 in Dallas, but will be using what the co-op has learned through developing virtual conventions to make buying shows more accessible, Surane says. Typically, more than 6,600 retailers attend Ace conventions in person. The virtual show will allow additional retailers to attend who have been unable to travel in the past, according to Surane.
“Hopefully we’re able to have a live convention in Dallas, but even if we do, we’re still going to continue using all of the digital tools we’ve created,” Surane says. “We want to continue serving retailers who would never come to a physical show. There’s tremendous value in the human interaction that comes from the live shows. I don’t care what we do with digital shows; that human interaction can never be replaced, but we want to offer as much value as we can through digital platforms.”