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True Value Goes “All In” at Its 2021 Fall Reunion

This past weekend, True Value Co. welcomed retailers to its first in-person event since early 2020. The 2021 Fall Reunion, held at McCormick Place in Chicago, Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, was open to all independent retailers and included a virtual option. 

During the company’s general session, which was pre-recorded and distributed virtually, True Value CEO Chris Kempa thanked retailers for their heroic support of their staff and customers during the challenges of the past year and a half. He also outlined the ways True Value has help retailers meet those challenges and how it will continue to support retailers in the future.

“I’m humbled by the extraordinary circumstances you endured and the sacrifices you make to ensure employees and customers were safe as you continued to serve communities,” he said in an address to retailers. “We at True Value give you a heartfelt thank you.”

This was Kempa’s first in-person Reunion since becoming CEO in May 2020. During the Reunion, he could be seen mingling with retailers, listening to the joys and challenges of the past year of business. 

The overall state of the company is strong, he says, with a nearly 24 percent increase in sales in 2020, the addition of more than 700 new customers and a continued double-digit sales growth in 2021. To sustain that momentum, the company is focused on several initiatives. 

“We have a five-year strategic plan that focuses on customer experience, efficiency and profitable growth,” Kempa says. “We learned a lot last year from volume spikes in our distribution centers and from all the complications of the pandemic. This helped our team develop a tactical plan to assure profitable growth and address areas where we could execute better. We are going all in for you, and as we do, our goal is for you to consolidate your buying and be all in with True Value.” 

Together Again

Retailers in attendance at the Fall Reunion were eager to meet with vendors face-to-face and see new products, but also valued the opportunity to mingle with other retailers and share ideas. 

Retailers filled the halls at McCormick Place searching for new products discount buys.

“I’ve spent more time talking with other retailers at this Reunion than I have at previous Reunions,” says DJ Jesrani, from Golfcrest True Value Hardware in Houston. “We’ve been getting deep into talking about issues that we are all facing together and learning how others are working through those issues.” 

Dave Gish, retail manager at GR Mitchell in Willow Street, Pennsylvania, says being at the Reunion in person has helped make purchases that are more difficult to do online. 

“Patio furniture and grills, for example, are items you really need to see to buy,” he says. “Getting back to an in-person event has made it easier to do that. We recently expanded our business and completed a remodel. That has contributed to a lot of the growth we’ve seen over the past year, especially on the lumber side of the business.”

Local E-commerce Program
During the past year and a half, many retailers understood more than ever the importance of online sales. True Value has responded by refocusing its e-commerce platform. Jean Niemi, senior vice president of marketing and communications, says the new platform will help retailers create their own commerce site that is focused on their unique markets. 

“The local omni-channel platform program is a flexible, easily customizable local e-commerce program,” she says. “We are shifting the focus of TrueValue.com to create a truly local experience. We will no longer sell products on TrueValue.com; rather all sales will be done on a retailer’s local website. This will help retailers increase sales, increase inventory returns and make full margin on products they sell.”

The program has already generated a lot of excitement among retailers. Josh Smith, of Bryant True Value in Corbin, Kentucky, says he plans on utilizing the program because it will be easier to use than the platform he is currently using. 

“We’ve been working with another e-commerce provider for several months and we’re still not able to use it,” he says, citing several frustrations with the implementation process. “With the True Value site, we’ll be able to use it right away and we’ll have a lot of functions that we didn’t have with the other provider, such as processing refunds.”

National Ad Campaign

At the Reunion, True Value also announced the launch of a new national ad campaign. The new campaign includes creating media content that is easy for retailers to use, increasing awareness of the True Value brand and promoting the strong ties True Value retailers have with their communities. The media content is also part of a national campaign True Value will launch on behalf of True Value retailers to strengthen its brand perception. 

“We are making an ‘all in’ commitment to the brand,” says Niemi. “We’ve created a number of brand videos to highlight what you and True Value can do for the consumer. You’re there to help and offer advice, you’re there to celebrate the real memories that result from a DIY project and you’re there to help communities during the most trying of times.”

True Value CEO Chris Kempa (right) learns more about the new product from Duraflame.

Exclusive Vendor Partnerships

Another major announcement at the Reunion was the exclusive partnerships True Value is striking with three of its key vendors. True Value will now be the only national hardware channel distributor for GE-branded lightbulbs. Under the agreement, True Value will also provide its customers with exclusive warehouse access to the growing CYNC™ family of whole-home automation products. CYNC is a premium, GE-branded line of smart home products formerly known as C by GE. The partnership becomes effective Jan 1, 2022. 

True Value is also partnering with Duraflame in the launch of a new smokeless fire pit. The new stainless-steel fire pit, manufactured and distributed by the SAS Group in partnership with Duraflame, is designed to burn fuel efficiently to reduce the amount of smoke released. It also features a removable grate and catch pan for easy cleaning. Under the agreement, True Value will have a 12-month new product launch lead time.

True Value also be the exclusive distributor of a line of five Kenmore upright and canister vacuums, which include new and innovative designs not yet on the market. 

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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