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At Ace convention, an international flavor

Third-quarter sales slipped 0.9%, but attendance was up at the fall convention in Orlando.

ORLANDO, FLA. —With multiple initiatives in play—including a plan to create a subsidiary to run its international division—Ace Hardware Corp. posted declines in sales and earnings for the third quarter of 2010.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based co-op said the strongest selling categories were tools, plumbing, housewares, and lawn and garden.

Ace Hardware Corp. reported total revenues of $824.9 million for the third quarter of 2010, a decline of 0.9% from $832.6 million in 2009. Net income for the co-op was $13.9 million, a decline of 48%, compared with $26.7 million in the third quarter of 2009.

“While our year-to-date results are down significantly as compared with last year, most of which was planned, we are optimistic about our ability to meet our full-year plan,” said Ray Griffith, Ace president and CEO. “We remain encouraged by our various retail initiatives including Craftsman and Benjamin Moore, which will provide our retailers opportunities to grow their businesses. In addition, we are excited about our recent announcement to restructure our international division, as we believe there are tremendous opportunities to enhance and grow the Ace brand outside the United States, especially with some of our existing retailers.”

At the co-op’s fall convention, record attendance, international growth and an overhaul of Vision 21 were just some of the topics covered during the morning merchandising and consumer marketing presentation. The event, held at the Orange County Convention Center, saw an increase of more than 600 members in attendance over the 2009 fall convention, the company said. Total attendance, including vendors and dealers, approximated 14,000.

One of the major agenda items at the morning presentation was the co-op management’s update on the recently implemented SAP supply chain system—a process John Surane, VP merchandising, advertising and marketing, equated to a traffic jam through road construction. He had a simple message to those retailers who were struggling through the implementation: “We have to make the pain worth it,” he said. “At the end of the day, that roadway is going to open up. They’re going to remove the cones, and the flags are going to get out of our way, and you are going to have a wider road with a fresh blacktop.”

The new system went live at the end of September, and the co-op has been working out the kinks in the system since then. David Ziegler, Ace chairman, acknowledged issues that affect members. “Many of those issues have been resolved, and the lingering ones are being addressed,” he added.