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At Issues Summit, lessons in supplier relations

New York -- Speaking to an audience of more than 100 retail leaders, Ace Hardware general merchandise manager Ken Goodgame offered thoughts on inventory management and social networking during the 12th annual Drug Store News Issues Summit at the New York Athletic Club, Nov. 30.

One of the key retailing issues was inventory management in a down economy, which has caused many retailers to make more conservative buying decisions.

According to Goodgame, Ace reacted by reducing the number of promotional SKUs throughout the year down to 40 from the previous year’s 250 -- but also increasing the available inventory in its distribution centers by approximately 15,000 SKUs.

The move helped its co-op members who were holding back their working capital.

“We literally gave store owners fewer SKUs to choose from, and we had much better compliance,” he said.

Goodgame commented that the co-op’s online initiatives are still in their infancy, but it has already made its 100,000 SKUs available to customers through ace.com, and built a following of 2.5 million fans on facebook.com.

“We’re really pushing this envelope as quickly as we can given the constraints of operating in a cooperative,” he said.

Private label, SKU rationalization and store execution were among the hot button issues discussed among the panelists.

Panelist Craig Norman of H-E-B, spoke on in-store execution: “As far as execution on programs, it is important for suppliers to understand the business that they are dealing with,” he said.

This year’s event also featured guest speaker Larry Kudlow, CNBC anchor of “The Kudlow Report,” who discussed his optimistic outlook for the U.S. economy. He advocated for deficit reduction, deregulation and a strong dollar to promote economic growth while criticizing economic stimulus measures, such as the Obama administration’s stimulus package and the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policies, as well as the Bush administration’s bailout of the banking system. He also emphasized sectors of the economy that he said would help lead the economic recovery, including energy, manufacturing and health care.