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Chris Hughes

Checking In: Chris Hughes, 2010 Young Retailer of the Year

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the North American Retail Hardware Association’s (NRHA) Young Retailer of the Year awards program. To celebrate, we’re checking in with a few past winners to see what they’ve been up to, both personally and professionally, since receiving their awards.

CChecking in: Chris Hugheshris Hughes, 2010 Young Retailer of the Year

Chris Hughes, of Hardware Plus in Osceola, Indiana, has been in the hardware industry for more than 25 years. “I was 15 when I started working at Hardware Plus,” Hughes says. “My buddy called me and said they had a few part-time positions available and asked if I’d be interested, and I said yes. And I’m still in the business today, but in a drastically different role since purchasing it in 2008.”

Q: What have you been up to since you received the Young Retailer of the Year honor in 2010?

A: Lots of working. Every year, we reset everything. We continue to expand in new areas—some projects we started five or 10 years ago have really taken off. One example is our lawn service. We started out offering basic services, like putting down fertilizer, and now we have 400 customers each year. We’ve never advertised it—it’s just been through word-of-mouth. It’s kind of snowballed, too—we now carry bulk mulch, rocks and new plants that we’ve added thanks to offering these services.

Q: What’s been the biggest change for you, professionally or personally, since you received this honor?

A: At the store, our personnel has changed, and so has the way we hire and motivate our employees. Since the recession, we have to look at retail pricing all the time. We work to stay sharp yet competitive. Keeping up with POS systems and retail software has helped streamline the process.

Personally, I’m always interested in trying new hobbies. Because business tends to be a little slower in the winter, I’ve taken up snowmobiling. A lot of places we go don’t have cell service, which allows me to get away for a bit and clear my mind. Of course, I also spend that down time in the store, doing resets and other similar projects.

I also spend time with my family. My two daughters are 13 and 9, and I do volunteering and coaching with their activities and sports teams. The older they get, the more important this time is.

Q: How has your business changed since you won this award?

A: Expansion is probably the biggest project we have on the horizon. We’ve started using our POS data a lot more, and we’ve gotten more involved in our co-op’s rewards program, which has affected the way we advertise. Instead of bulk circulars, we do more targeted marketing. We also host events now to bring in new customers and keep our biggest fans engaged in new ways.

Q: Who in the industry has inspired you?

A: The father and son I bought the store from, Jim and Mike Monserez. I talk to each of them probably about once a month. They’re always interested in what’s going on, and it’s nice to have a sounding board with them.

Q: What the most unique thing about your business?

A: My staff is unique. Our culture is unique. We have a lot of fun, both with our customers and our employees. It’s probably best reflected in our social media presence. We have recurring characters like Dr. Turf, Captain Patriot, Professor Paint and Mr. Safety that help us show and tell products in a fun, not “salesy” way. I feel that if we are going to do something, we will have fun with it. We have a great retention rate with customers and employees, so that philosophy must be working.

About Liz Lichtenberger

Liz is the special projects editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. She reports on news and trends, visits retailers, and attends industry events. She graduated from Xavier University, where she earned a degree in English and Spanish and was a member of the swim team. Liz is a Louisville, Kentucky, native who lives in Indianapolis with her husband and two children. She enjoys swimming, reading, doing home improvement projects around her house and cheering on her two favorite basketball teams, the Kentucky Wildcats and the Xavier Musketeers.

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