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Rough Winter Doesn’t Chill Attendee Attitude at United Buying Market

Despite a long cold winter, attendees to the United Hardware June Buying Market say they’re experiencing a booming spring business and have high hopes for the future.

While United Hardware continues to work around the clock to meet increased demand, it continues to focus on the future with training, technology and new niche opportunities at its market.

Focus on Housewares

At the market, show organizers set up a special housewares area focused on small appliances and kitchen gadgets in response to noticing more of its retailers are growing the niche. But United Hardware says the importance of the display transcends simple product assortments to include creative merchandising solutions—a theme it says will offer retailers the upper hand in their markets.

“It’s not just about having the correct products; it’s about offering ideas on how to set up displays and make them really pop,” says Steve Draeger, president and CEO of United Hardware. “We want to give our retailers ideas of how they can bring more sales to their stores, and how they can do it without a lot of expense.”

Tech Training

At the market, United Hardware staff put a special emphasis on training through strategically placed training kiosks. The kiosks allowed attendees to work one-on-one with United Hardware employees or in small groups of their peers. These kiosks covered topics ranging from Microsoft Excel to using the co-op’s new website.

Draeger says the company believes in introducing technology and retail change at the pace and format of each individual retailer, as opposed to blanket requirements or education.

A Gauge on the Market

Overall, the atmosphere on the show floor was positive, with retailers looking forward to finding new products and exploring new categories. Many, such as Matt Fales, hardware/warehouse manager with Community Co-ops, are even planning store expansion and remodels to meet growing needs.

“Because we’re planning a remodel right now, we’re using this show to ramp up,” Fales says. “We’re looking for new products, ideas and deals to fill that store.”

Others, like Steve Marier, manager of Hugo Feed Mill & Hardware, were planning moves to new locations.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” he says. “We need more room because all our categories are expanding. We’re even opening up a greenhouse.”

Marier says he appreciated a chance to get some face time with vendors.

“This show is helpful for us because we get to see new products and meet with our vendors one-on-one,” Marier says. “For example, we do a lot in pet supplies, and I was just able to sit down with a rep and talk about new ideas we could try with the category. It’s a very productive show for us.”

Many were happy that the warmer weather was finally here, too.

“Many retailers said their businesses have been great especially in the last few weeks,” Draeger says. “After a winter that was longer and colder than usual, spring business has been growing with a vengeance.”

The market ran June 13-15 in Minneapolis.

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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