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Retailers' Choice

Retailers Pick Their Favorite Products

From bee houses to paint strippers, the 56th Retailers’ Choice Awards honored 32 new products as part of the National Hardware Show and NHPA All-Industry Conference. Six independent home improvement retailers made up the judging panel, volunteering their time to help choose this year’s winners. 

The judges browsed the Show floor, looking for products they felt were unique and could sell well in their home improvement businesses. 

Retailer Ned Green, owner of Weiders Paint & Hardware, served as a judge and says he had a great time exploring the Show floor and browsing products. 

“The products I found and nominated were ones that would be great in my store and would solve a problem for our customers,” Green says. “I also found some products that could be great add-on and impulse items.”

For Diana Newton, president of Bay Hardware, it was her second time serving as a judge for the Retailers’ Choice Awards.

“I enjoy getting to search for products on the Show floor,” she says. “Being a judge again was one reason I was excited to come back to the National Hardware Show.”

After exploring the Show floor, the judges met for a luncheon to share the products they nominated and why they loved each product. Each of the Retailers’ Choice Awards winners were honored at an award ceremony Wednesday evening after the Show. The product winners also received a plaque recognizing their product’s distinction and a Retailers’ Choice Awards logo to use in all of their advertising or promotions for the winning product. The winning products will be featured in a special Retailers’ Choice Awards product section in the June 2022 issues of Hardware Retailing and Paint & Decorating Retailer

The Learning Continues

Presentations kicked off at 9 a.m. on the NHPA Village Stage for Day 2 of the NHPA All-Industry Conference. The theme of this year’s event is “Investing in People, Products & Technology,” and the presentations hit on all of those components. Read highlights from each event below and check out the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA) on Instagram for behind-the-scenes captures.

The Hiring Strategies You Need to Try
Melanie Moul, NHPA, Managing Editor

To start the day, NHPA’s Melanie Moul discussed hiring strategies that retailers are using and finding success. There were several key takeaways from her presentation, but a recurring message is that hiring can’t be successful if it’s not tailored to your company’s core values.

“The top-performing retailers in the industry run their businesses by specific core values that are part of every decision in the organization. From how to solve a customers’ plumbing problem to who to hire, core values offer critical guidance,” Moul says. “You need to ask yourself, ‘Who do we want working in our business?’ People who understand the mission of the business and can show the core values in everything they do.”

If you’re looking for resources on hiring, NHPA recently launched The Hiring Toolkit to help. The kit includes business cards to hand out to customer service workers you encounter, examples of great retailer career websites, nine different sample job description templates, skills assessment tests and more that can help you find solutions in this challenging labor market. Download The Hiring Toolkit here.

KEYNOTE: Industry Fundamentals and Customer Behaviors Impacting Home Improvement
Grant Farnsworth, The Farnsworth Group, President

Keynote speaker Grant Farnsworth delivered a data-packed presentation that showcased how contractors and DIYers have been managing product shortages and pricing over the last two years. One key takeaway Farnsworth noted is that the separation between e-commerce and commerce no longer exists—nearly every customer, whether they’re a pro or a DIYer, is using online platforms for research prior to buying. 

“It’s more critical than ever that there is a consistency between digital and in-person worlds,” he says. “Contractors are using more than three sources on average, going between manufacturing and supplier sites before buying.” 

Farnsworth noted that, according to research collected within the last month, contractors and home improvement professionals have said material pricing and material availability have been their top concerns. Those concerns have led to changing behaviors regarding brand loyalty because contractors have been more likely to change brands due to supply limitations over the last year or more.

For more insights from Farnsworth, watch the NHPA Market Measure webinar here

RETAILER PANEL: How Retailers Are Taking on Tech
Eric Hassett, Hassett Ace Hardware, Owner
Adam Gunnett, Busy Beaver, Director of IT & Marketing
Jade Haynie, Northwest Hardware, General Manager

Technology is often a challenge for independent retailers and this panel featured retailers who are engaging with unique and varied technology solutions in their operations. Here’s an overview of some of the initiatives these retailers are investing in. 

  • At Busy Beaver, which has 25 locations in the Pittsburgh area, they are testing several new initiatives, including an autonomous robot that checks for empty shelves or products in the wrong locations. The robot completes the task in 2 hours overnight, compared to a team of associates needing up to a whole week. The company is also testing electronic shelf labels, which makes adjusting pricing a much simpler task. Overall, Gunnett says the initiatives they’ve taken on have improved efficiency and morale for the team.
  • Hassett Ace Hardware has five locations in the San Francisco Bay area, and they are also investing in many technology initiatives. Next month, they are launching a communication system that will connect all five stores through headsets. The headsets function as employee intercoms, but also allow for individual communications to certain staffers or even to departments at other stores. The systems will also allow for a prerecorded message to be played every time an associate logs in, which owner Eric Hassett says he intends to use to deliver weekly communications companywide, such as sales goals and announcements.
  • Northwest Hardware operates five stores in Montana. General manager Jade Haynie discussed their employee management system Dexter. The system allows managers to assign specific tasks for employees to complete during a shift and to send communications to the entire staff. As the general manager, Haynie gets to see an overall view of each store, and each store manager has access to their specific location.

“My philosophy is that I am trying to find technologies that will help the employees work with the customers,” Hassett says. “Our brand is all about service.”

“Technology is not going anywhere,” Haynie says. “It’s just getting bigger.” 

RETAILER PANEL: Creating the Ultimate Customer Experience
Rodney Bullion, TAL Holdings LLC, Director of Learning & Development
Darryl Zunker, Pintura Paints, General Manager
Ned Green, Weiders Paint and Hardware, Owner

With all the competition in the marketplace, creating an inviting experience is key to customer retention. Independent retailers have the flexibility to adapt to their customers’ shifting expectations, from store hours and special orders to omnichannel solutions and project knowledge. 

On this panel, retailers shared their strategies for making customer service in their stores a first-rate experience, which for all of them, starts with training their employees to offer a high level of customer service. 

“The more we grew, the more we knew that we had to engage our people and grow our people quickly to be as effective as possible because our employees are our key asset to offering a great customer experience,” says Bullion. 

How to Leverage Technology to Reduce Shrink
Jim Close, Managing Partner, Risk Management Services Loss Prevention

Loss prevention expert Jim Close discussed the types of technologies loss prevention professionals rely on to combat shrink and strategies retailers can use in their own operations. 

He says it’s crucial to pay attention to overages.

“I like to use the analogy of when I’d go on a business trip and my daughter used to help herself to my wallet. And as soon as I found it was short, I knew right where to go,” Close says. “Once I was over, I didn’t go look for her. ‘OK, I’ve got money, sweet.’ We tend to look for things that are missing. But if you’re starting to see a pattern of overages, that’s a red flag.”

RETAILER PANEL: Insights From Young Retailers
Kyle Adair, Co-Owner, Maycrest Hardware
Adam Moulton, Owner, Allandale, Ingersoll & Woodstock Home Hardware Building Centres
Cory Rhynehart, Minority Owner, Milton Hardware & Building Supply

Three of this year’s Young Retailer of the Year honorees shared their insights on what they love about the home improvement industry, how they stay connected in their communities and the ways they’ve found success in their operations. 

Kyle on Community:
“There was a longing desire to be more connected to the community, to do something that had an impact and stayed in the community.”

Adam on Why He Loves His Job:
“There’s always something different every single day. We never know what we’re going to walk into with retail, and there’s always something that pops up and I enjoy the pace of our industry.”

Cory on How He Helps Customers:
“When I was in construction, I had one task: I could build this one deck or this one house. But now, over the course of a week, I can help 15 people build their decks and two people build a house. I take personal pride and ownership in all of these projects.”

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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