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At Ace Convention, Griffith points to sales momentum

The Mile High City welcomed Ace Hardware's 2011 Denver Fall Convention & Exhibits, Oct. 15 to 17. The event brought 12,332 attendees and 2,564 booths to the show floor at the Colorado Convention Center. 
Ace Hardware dealers file into the Wells Fargo Theatre at the Colorado Convention Center for the General Session. Ace executives promoted a "Play to Win" theme, including a list of top 10 marketing and merchandising strategies for success.
John Surane, senior VP consumer marketing, merchandising and paint for Ace Hardware, helped describe the top 10 plays for dealers. Among them: Clark + Kensington paint, the new Ace Rewards Visa, and Craftsman tools and outdoor power equipment.
On the show floor, retailers posed with the co-op's five J.D. Power & Associates awards for highest customer satisfaction in the major home improvement retail store category. Shown here is Don Mason of Naylor's Hardware in Oakland, Md. 
Artist Eric Waugh fills his canvas with Clark + Kensington paint, Ace's new paint-and-primer-in-one product. The paint was a big story at the event. Some 1,500 dealers have signed up for the program.
Ace merchants pointed to the emerging category of decorative lighting and lighted fountains. A "Garden after dark" display presented the latest products in simulated nighttime conditions.
Ace Hardware chairman David Ziegler welcomed dealers to Denver. One of his slides focused on the 20th anniversary of the Ace Foundation, which has raised more than $46 million for charity.

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Denver -- Ace Hardware stores are showing strong same-store sales, while the distributor's wholesale sales are running ahead of the budgeted 3% growth, CEO Ray Griffith told dealers.

Speaking Saturday morning at the General Session of the co-op's 2011 Convention & Exhibits here at the Colorado Convention Center, Griffith said data from about 3,000 Ace stores show a 2.4% comparable-store sales increase over last year. In each of the last four months, the stores showed comp-sales increases of more than 4%. 

"These results beat some pretty impressive retailers," Griffith said, pointing to Lowe's, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney and Kohls. 

Turning to the Oak Brook, Ill.-based co-op's financial performance, Griffith said wholesale sales year-to-date are running 5% ahead of last year. The co-op showed a 2.1% sales gain in 2010 and budgeted a 3% gain in 2011. The 5% increase is the largest sales increase since 2007. 

Recent figures are even more encouraging, he said. September was up 15.5%, and October is trending at 13.3%. "There are many retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers who would love to say they have a 5% increase going in 2011," Griffith said. 

The CEO added that the co-op is confident it will exceed its budgeted bottom-line net income goal of $75 million.

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