Friday, January 16, 2015

Going Local in a Big Box World

Ace Hardware Corp., a 90-year-old co-op that oversees nearly 5,000 locally owned hardware stores, never would be mistaken for trendy. But its recent growth proves that everything old eventually becomes fashionable again.

“We are a service-based, high-touch, local business,” says John Venhuizen, CEO of the Oak Brook-based chain. “The shop-local trend is one that has served us well.”

Does this sound familiar to you? You might be a "service-based, high-touch, local business" as well. 

Ace always has focused on modest stores. Its average footprint is about 8,000 square feet, a mere couple of aisles in a typical 100,000-square-foot Home Depot. Lower overhead helped propel Ace to record profit and sales . Net income increased almost 28 percent to $104.5 million as revenue rose 8 percent to $4.15 billion. But while small may be beautiful, it's still small. For perspective, Home Depot Inc. rings up more every three weeks, on average, than Ace does in an entire year.

Mr. Venhuizen nevertheless likes his position. An Ace lifer who was promoted to CEO in April 2013 from chief operating officer, Mr. Venhuizen, 44, grants that Home Depot, Lowe's and Inc. “are very good at what they do” but says Ace has managed to stand out by offering personalized advice.

Be a standout by offering personalized and industry specific knowledge

In fact, he says, Ace has chosen to leave more intensive renovation-related sales to the goliaths so that it can serve the homeowner with weekend “honey do” projects. “Even when the economy was bad, you may not have wanted to put 55 grand into granite countertops, but 20 bucks for a can of paint to spruce up your kitchen? Sure,” he says. “And I don't think they're going to create an app where taking care of your home isn't cool anymore.”

Jeremy Melnick, a third-generation Ace owner who runs six stores in metro Chicago, concurs: “Weber grills are going to be the same price at our store or on Amazon,” he says. “The difference is that we deliver and put them together. You need to see a paint swatch in person, and you're not going to get a key cut from Amazon.”

Mr. Venhuizen's challenge, then, is to find ways to expand in his niche.
So to is your challenge? How can you innovate and expand your sales?

One suggestion might be that your leverage a software system that is tailored to your industry.
the MDS-Nx system has the tools to help you customize your sales environment for your specific customer's

Anyone can buy a box of  gloves online. But they won't know the tensile strength or what percentage of latex, or the ones that Dr. Stover prefers.
All of that can change the value of your sales model and let you be the local supplier with better knowledge and understanding.

Sell the value you have and use tools specifically designed to do just that.

Take advantage of this local trend to build your relationships and increase your value to your customers.

For more information on TSH or MDS call The Systems House, Inc. at 1-800- MDS-5556. Or send a message to
Click here and tell us how we can help you with your business solutions.