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United Hardware Buying Market Highlights Special Events

At its Spring and Summer Buying Market, held Jan. 10-12 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, United Hardware helped retailers start off the new year with a diverse mix of vendors, discounted buys and a focus on the power of special events.

Planning for Growth

The Spring and Summer Buying Market was also the first opportunity many retailers had to meet the company’s new president and CEO, Doug Audette. He joined United Hardware in October, replacing former president and CEO Steve Draeger, who retired after 10 years with the company.

“The market really shows the strong level of support we receive from our vendors,” Audette says. “Our vendors are professional in their market presentation and committed to helping our retailers achieve their goals. We anticipate a year of growth in 2020 as we continue those relationships.”

As he enters into leadership at United Hardware, Audette sees many opportunities for the company to advance its place in the industry.

“We had a good year in 2019, with both our company and our retailers making investments in the future. We believe that will set us up for an even better year in 2020, as our customers continue to invest in their operations through store resets and expansions. We also intend to expand on the strong foundation we already have by building on our current suite of member benefits while driving a disciplined execution of every aspect of our business. We will also invest in our own people to make sure our talented staff is well-equipped to meet the needs of our customers.”

Several retailers in attendance shared that optimism as they reflected on the previous year and looked forward to 2020. One of those retailers was Jon Cole, owner of Marvin Home Center in Warroad, Minnesota, who said that while 2019 got a rough start because of the weather, they ended the year on a positive note.

“We are expecting gains in 2020, especially among the contractor community that we serve,” he says. “We’re looking forward to a good year.”

One of his goals for the new year is to incorporate more household items to his product mix, especially after the closing of a local Shopko store.

“After Shopko went out of business, people now have no place in town to buy housewares and soft goods,” he says. “We’re looking to expand those categories in our store, wherever we can fill a gap, whether it’s kitchen gadgets or bath towels and table linens.”

Creating Exceptional Events

One of the ways United Hardware is helping retailers be successful is by giving them an ever-widening assortment of tools to use for hosting special events. At the market, the company had promotional support materials available to help guide retailers through the process of planning and executing an event in their store.

Special events were also the focus of a seminar on Friday. During the seminar, Lisa Makowski, creative advertising and event manager, and Charles Chibante, director of sales, encouraged retailers to create unique retail experiences for their customers.

“Independent, local retailers are in a unique position to create remarkable customer experiences by using special events,” Chibante says. “While online retail tends to be sterile without a lot of human interaction, brick-and-mortar retailers can offer a personal experience where Amazon can’t compete.”

Makowski highlighted several United Hardware retailers who hold exceptional events for their customers. One of those was Deborah and Tracey Everson from Everson’s Hardware Hank in Waconia, Minnesota. During the seminar, Deborah shared stories of several events that have brought the community into their store, including several that focus on activities for children. One of the most popular is an event where children are able to shop for and wrap Christmas presents for their parents.

“We had 50 kids in our store last year, running around with staff shopping for presents,” Deborah says. “I had one family thank me for helping make Christmas memories for their family. For me, that’s what makes these events so meaningful. Children will remember those memories when they’re old enough to make their own shopping decisions. That is going to help keep the generations coming back to our business.”

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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