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Retailers Celebrate Independence at True Value Spring Reunion

Home improvement retailers came from around the globe to discover new products, attend educational seminars and network with other business owners at the True Value Spring Reunion.

The weather was cold and rainy, but spirits were high as retailers used their time at the show to gain insight into improving their own unique, independent businesses. The buying market ran Feb. 17-19 in Anaheim, California.

The reunion kicked off at the Anaheim Convention Center on Friday when the showfloor opened. Retailers could meet with True Value representatives for some face-to-face communication, browse vendor booths from all the core categories and get in the Christmas spirit by planning for the next holiday season.

General Session Highlights Member Strengths

As the first day on the showfloor came to a close, attendees headed to the company’s general session to learn about the latest programs, initiatives and updates from the True Value team.

The theme of the show was the value of independence, and John Hartmann, True Value president and CEO, started the general session by sharing how the co-op continues to provide tools to help ensure retailers’ success.

“Today and every day, we’re here to ensure that you are independently strong and never alone,” Hartmann says. “Many names, one company. Independent retailers united by the True Value mission and thousands of ways to make it work. That’s the value of independence.”

One highlight from the general session was a focus on technology and the co-op’s omnichannel strategy to continue to attract and draw customers into independent retailers’ businesses. Abhinav Shukla, senior vice president and chief operating officer, shared stats from 2016, in which ship-to-store transactions grew 52 percent.

Shukla discussed a program, My Inventory Online, that will allow retailers to connect their point-of-sale system information to accurately display product availability to customers browsing on www.truevalue.com. After sharing omnichannel updates, Shukla also introduced a new five-year plan to realign the network supply chain.

Later in the general session, Jean Niemi, vice president of communications, took the stage to share how the co-op has been creating more two-way communication between retailers and True Value executives through a Roundtable Webinar Program for all retailers, as well as the Member Advisory Council, made up of 165 volunteer retailers who each serve a one-year term. Through both, True Value is inviting co-op members to discuss critical topics and provide feedback in order to best guide decision making.

Brent Burger, chairman of the True Value board, shared the latest updates from the True Value Foundation and introduced a new program, the Youth Up Matching Gifts Program, which encourages retailers to support youth in their communities.

“We have set aside $100,000 for 2017 Youth Up matching gifts made on your behalf to qualifying youth focused, nonprofit organizations,” Burger says. “Your cash donation of up to $1,000 could be eligible for a True Value Foundation matching gift.”

Then, Tim Mills, senior vice president of growth, shared the latest updates on how True Value retailers are continuing to grow by opening 68 ground-up stores and remodeling 101 stores in the past year. From 2012 through the end of 2016, the co-op went from 4,569 members down to 4,392, but at the same time period, sales went up 10 percent, according to Mills.

“For three consecutive years, your gains have outpaced losses and there is a reason why—you,” Mills says. “You invested in your stores with remodels. You embraced customer service training to ensure your consumers are well served when they come into your stores. You came out in record numbers over the past two years and participated in the national events. True Value is stronger because you are stronger today and that’s a wonderful thing.”

To close the general session, Hartmann reflected on the path the company has followed since unveiling its strategic plan a few years back.

“Before we even developed the strategic initiative, we listened first and we used your insight and input to develop a plan for shaping your future,” Hartmann says. “We brought the wow into every transaction and we immediately began realizing improvement in sales, service and performance and we broke a decade long trend of negative growth. Everyone felt the momentum. This meant we could hone in and focus our investments on modernizing our company to ensure your continued success. And tying that all together is the value of independence.”

Unique Finds on the Showfloor

Retailers at the show also had opportunities to watch product demonstrations, browse vendor booths for product deals and more.

True Value brought back Assortment City, a 35,000-square-foot area dedicated to making it easier for retailers to shop customized assortments, which was popular at the last show.

A new addition to the floor was Impulse Alley, an area dedicated to providing guidance to retailers on how to merchandise stores beyond the shelves.

On the floor, many retailers had Christmas on their minds, with an entire seasonal section dedicated to the winter holidays.

“This is the first spring reunion I’ve attended,” says Brad Rowgo, manager of Gales True Value in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “We’re looking at the Christmas category and are interested to see if Christmas is a viable thing to do in our business.”

For Chip Kurzeka, owner of Franklin’s True Value Hardware in Woodland Hills, California, attending the show was easy as the event was only about an hour away from his store. He and his son were on the hunt for ways to stay competitive.

“We’re always looking for new products, new services and ways to compete online with Amazon,” Kurzeka says. “I think there is still a need for brick-and-mortar stores, but it can be very challenging. To remain an important part of our community, we offer many services you can’t find at the big box or online. At this reunion, I’m hoping to see some new tech-based ways to compete.”

While every retailer had different goals and plans at the reunion, each wanted to improve and strengthen their business operations in some way.

“I believe in all my heart that your independence, your right to be True Value in the way that works best for your business, is what sets us apart from everyone else,” Hartmann says.

About Renee Changnon

Renee Changnon is the retail outreach coordinator for NRHA. She meets with retailers in their stores and at industry events and introduces them to the services NRHA provides. Renee previously worked as a member of the NRHA communications team. She earned a degree in visual journalism from Illinois State University, where she served as the features editor for the school newspaper. After college, she implemented marketing and promotions initiatives at Jimmy John’s franchise locations across the country. She enjoys exploring books with her book club, Netflix marathons and hosting goat yoga at her apartment complex. Renee Changnon 317-275-9442 rchangnon@nrha.org

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