Hardware Retailing

OCT 2016

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | October 2016 48 market changes, an undesirable product selection or new competition. Some changes are simply the result of an evolving marketplace. For example, consider some of the changing government regulations in core categories such as lawn and garden chemicals and oil-based paint, where key ingredients have been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency. While you may not have thought about its long-term impact, think for a minute about the phase out of incandescent bulbs and the move to longer-lasting options like LED light bulbs will have on your store. On one hand, today's LED bulbs, at current pricing levels, generate a lot more sales and gross margin dollars per unit sold than their incandescent counterparts. But, while that's the case now, the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit coalition of business, government, environmental and consumer leaders advocating for enhanced energy, predicts the price point of LEDs will "drop drastically in the coming years as demand increases." It wasn't that long ago that incandescent bulbs were hot promotional items at hardware stores and were featured on the front pages of circulars from coast to coast. They drove traffic to independent stores. LEDs now last up to 25 times longer than incandescent and 10 times longer than fluorescents. And while they are no doubt better for the environment, the tradeoff at retail will likely be a negative effect on overall store traffic, and fewer footsteps in the electrical department. It's not just changing regulations that can affect core department performance, either. Sometimes market forces are responsible. Consider trends in the power tool category back in the 1990s and early 2000s, when many independents completely abandoned their assortments due to overwhelming price and competitive pressure from the big boxes. While we've seen the return of this category to the aisles of many independent stores today, the assortment strategy was forever impacted as a result. Like maintaining physical fitness, there are no easy fixes or magic pills you can take to revitalize an "out-of-shape" core department or category. It takes working out the issues that are responsible, and a solid plan for continuous improvement. That was the strategy that store manager Michael Potter, merchandise manager Trent Ricksger and district manager TJ Colson, three management employees from Wilco, examined as part of their Business Improvement Project while attending the NRHA Retail Management Certification Program (RMCP) in 2013. Their project focused on revitalizing sales and profitability of the company's paint and sundries department, and this is a comprehensive account of what they did, and the results of their efforts. Pictured at their RMCP graduation ceremony (from left) are Will Barnhart, Wilco district manager and RMCP sponsor; Merchandise Manager Trent Ricksger; Store Manager Michael Potter; and District Manager TJ Colson.

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