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Independent Home Improvement Conference

2 Industry Events Join Forces at the Independent Home Improvement Conference

In six months, two respected industry events—the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA) Independents Conference and The Hardware Conference—will come together to form the Independent Home Improvement Conference (IHI Conference). Hardware Retailing sat down with NHPA COO and publisher Dan Tratensek and owner of The Hardware Conference Craig Cope to get their insights on how this event unites the industry and why retailers will want to attend.

Hardware Retailing (HR): What are you most looking forward to as a combined event for independent retailers?   

Dan Tratensek

Dan Tratensek (DT): One of the biggest things we preach at NHPA is that independent retailers, and this entire channel in fact, is stronger when it comes together. So when we began talking with Craig about the possibility of joining forces to create one, big event, it was time for us to put our money where our mouth was and do everything we could do to bring as many strengths to bear as we could in support of the independent home improvement community.

Craig Cope

Craig Cope (CC): Over the past 35 years, The Hardware Conference became known as a gathering place where independent retailers could come together, regardless of what brand of flag they were flying, and network with each other and the other members of the channel who supported them. Helping them elevate their businesses was always our central goal. This same exact goal is central to NHPA’s mission.
So, ultimately, when we looked at what we were doing at our conference and what NHPA was doing with their events and other activities, it really made perfect sense for us to combine our efforts to produce a single event that was all about bringing the industry together to help recognize, encourage and support the independent retailers in this channel.

HR: What do you hope attendees will come away with from the IHI Conference?

DT: The goal is that they come away with stronger relationships with each other and their channel partners, as well as a basket full of actionable ideas they can use to improve their businesses. That’s really the ideal part of this marriage of conferences, if you will. The Hardware Conference was well known for its networking opportunities, while our events have typically had education and business improvement programming as central themes. Now, these two valuable opportunities are going to come together in one place.

CC: It has to be valuable for the attendees, exhibitors and sponsors. They all have to come away from the event saying “that was worth my time and investment.” In the past, I think it’s safe to say we have achieved that goal with our separate events. Now that we are combining to host one event, the benefits will be that much better.

HR: How will the educational conference theme of Retail Operations and Innovation resonate with attendees?

DT: Now, more than ever, finding success in retail is about the small things, the incremental improvements you can make in your business to shift the balance between failing or just getting along to thriving and growing. I’ve been covering and researching this industry for nearly 30 years and I don’t think there has ever been a time where focusing on continuous improvement for your business, in all aspects of the operation, has ever been more important.

HR: The conference will feature a variety of educational formats, from keynote speakers to breakout sessions. Why is it important to offer different learning opportunities for attendees?

DT: When a retailer leaves his or her store, there has to be a reason. Time away from the business has to be productive. That’s what we promise to give them at the IHI Conference. To do that, we are going to offer a variety of opportunities for them to reap value during their time at the conference. There will be track-based breakout sessions in the mornings where attendees can go to sessions that are focused on helping them improve in particular areas such as technology, advertising and marketing, employee engagement and operational improvement. In the afternoons, we will be hosting valuable keynote presentations and panel discussions where attendees can gather ideas from top industry presenters and practitioners.

CC: Add to all of these educational and actionable learning opportunities the fact that we will also have the industry’s top vendors and service providers on hand to share ideas and network with attendees about the latest advances they are bringing to the channel and you have a really powerful, valuable event.

HR: How will the event allow retailers to build relationships with vendors and service providers?

CC: Throughout the history of The Hardware Conference, the event was well known for its networking opportunities. One of the reasons it was so successful at helping attendees and vendors and service providers build relationships is that the atmosphere is truly unique. We build in a lot of time for attendees and exhibitors and sponsors to just interact. There isn’t the pressure you find at other events where the retailers are focused on getting through their to-do lists and filling orders. At this conference, the focus is learning how to run your business more effectively but also building relationships that strengthen your entire operation. You really have the opportunity to work ON your business because you aren’t so deep in the weeds working IN it while you are here.

HR: The Hardware Connection and NHPA are known for high-caliber industry awards. What does it mean to be able to host these award programs at one event?

DT: It’s always been our philosophy that one of the best ways for other retailers to learn is by shining a spotlight on the organizations that are already doing a great job. At the IHI Conference, attendees are going to see a wide range of independent retailers and hear their success stories with three of the industry’s most prominent awards programs taking place throughout the event. On the first full night of the conference, Hardware Connection magazine will be hosting its Beacon Awards, on night two NHPA will be hosting our Young Retailer of the Year Awards and as part of the conference programming, we will also be recognizing the Top Gun Award winners from the stage and hosting a discussion panel with this year’s recipients.

CC: By having all of these awards take place during the IHI Conference we hope it will cast an even larger spotlight on the accomplishments of the award recipients. We know that it will expose a broader segment of the industry to the fact that independent retailers continue to innovate and push the boundaries within this channel.

HR: What are you most excited about having the conference in Marco Island, Florida? 

CC: Marco Island and the JW Marco Island Beach Resort served as home to The Hardware Conference for its entire run and there’s a reason for that. It is a world-class property that sits right on the waterfront. For anyone who hasn’t taken a look at the property, I would encourage them to go to the website and take a look at the venue and all it has to offer. That alone should convince you to book your tickets to the IHI Conference.

DT: The best part is our event will have complete run of the property, so all that learning and networking will continue throughout the event, whether you are in a session, grabbing a drink at the oceanfront bar or just walking on the beach. The experience will be truly unique and valuable.

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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