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Rebranding, e-Commerce and Category Solutions Focal Points of United Hardware’s Fall & Winter Buying Market

United Hardware retailers attending the cooperative’s Fall & Winter Buying Market had opportunities to learn about their company’s brand revitalization initiative, e-commerce platform and new options for creating stronger category solutions. The buying market, held June 23 – 25 at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota, was a showcase not only of vendor programs and new products but also a chance for company leaders to share their vision for the future of the company.

Retailers not able to travel to Rochester joined United Hardware’s virtual market, held concurrently with the live event. In addition to special buying opportunities, both the in-person and virtual markets offered opportunities for seeing new products, attending seminars on timely industry topics and learning about the many programs, services and solutions United Hardware has to offer.

“A lot of stores are going to our virtual market to do the bulk of their buying. They can then use their time at the in-person market to look for additional deals, view new items and spend quality time with vendors and United Hardware staff,” says Doug Audette, president and CEO.

“At this market, we are bringing the full toolbox of all we have to offer to our members. Over the past two years we have built a full suite of retailer programs that can compete with any distributor out there, regardless of size. The programs and services the United Hardware team has built enables us to truly live out our vision of being a trusted partner helping our members build successful businesses and vibrant communities.”

A Cohesive Brand Image
The Hardware Hank brand has long been the retail name by which most shoppers know United Hardware. Now, the company is working fervently to increase its brand awareness and create more consistency across its member base. At the market, retailers learned about updated store signage and other branded items, such as apparel, promotional items and store supplies. The Hardware Hank name will also be part of new ad campaigns on digital billboards across the company’s market trade area.

“We are finding new and more relevant ways to promote the Hardware Hank brand while creating a more consistent and consumer recognizable brand for all of our members to benefit from. Hardware Hank branded retailers continue to build trust and loyalty with their customers and solidify the nostalgia that the Hardware Hank brand is known for,” says director of brand and member marketing Lisa Makowski.

“We are also helping our members be more efficient and effective by fully integrating all of their marketing needs into an easy and more affordable array of solutions,” she says. “Many United Hardware retailers have been very good at traditional advertising, so for many we are helping them get started in the digital and social channels. These efforts help portray a strong consistent image so they can effectively reach a wider audience.”

Andrew Ritter, owner of Ritter’s Hardware in Whitehall, Wisconsin, recently added the updated signage to his newly remodeled store.

“We appreciate the ability to blend our unique store name with Hardware Hank,” he says. “We believe that including the Hardware Hank name helps shoppers build trust in our business. It also comes with the responsibility of upholding that trust by creating a positive experience in the store.”

Ritter says Hardware Hank is a brand he is proud to associate with his business.

“We like the direction United Hardware is heading and its leadership’s vision for the future,” he says. “The company is a good fit for independent-minded retailers like us who want a distributor that will provide the products and services we need while allowing us to maintain our small-town feel.”

Online Sales and In-Store Opportunities
Earlier this year, United Hardware announced the launch of its first e-commerce site, hardwarehank.com. The site will allow customers to purchase from a selection of more than 40,000 items, then pick up their order in-store or via curbside delivery, where offered. At the market, retailers were able to learn more about the program and then build their own store web page on the site, which includes information about their business and current promotions.

Additionally, retailers were able to see modern consumer-relevant planograms from United Hardware’s retail-focused Core Solutions and Power Programs. Power tools, automotive and wild bird were just a few of the current offerings. The United Hardware Category Management team introduced the “Core Store” concept, and retailers interested in these Core Solutions interacted with the team to assist them in the right programs for their business.

Seth Howard, owner of Howard’s Hardware Hank in Arcadia, Wisconsin, was one of the many retailers at the market looking both for special buys, along with retail programs and services that would best fit his business. He also attended a seminar held before the start of the market, known as United Hardware’s Emerging Leaders, which focused on providing new and upcoming managers and owners with resources and knowledge to enhance their leadership and management skills to improve their businesses.

“I find the market is a great time to network, but for our key categories and look into the opportunities United has to offer us,” he says. “This year we’re planning to work through several departments to see where we can expand and or reduce to maximize our retail space.”

Among the market attendees were several new members, learning about United Hardware and meeting with executive leadership. In 2022 United Hardware has refocused its efforts on adding new members, with a number of incentive programs to assist business owners with conversion, new startups or purchasing a hardware store.

“We just finished rebuilding our foundation, which included updating our brand and modernizing our technology. Now, it’s time to turn the page to focus on growth. That will happen both by putting forth effective retail solutions to drive sales for current members while at the same time working to attract new cooperative members,” says Audette. “There are a lot of new opportunities out there and with an ongoing focus on continuous improvement and a commitment to our shared purpose, United Hardware and its members are equipped and ready to grow into the future together.”

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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