When Orgill first heard of Hooten’s Hardware’s expansion plan, it was a simple sketch drawn on a letter-size sheet of paper. Two weeks later, when the Memphis distributor called to check in with the Texas dealer, it discovered that owner Lance Hooten had already begun bulldozing a site on his 25-acre parcel an hour’s drive east of Dallas.
It wasn’t the best time to start building a new store, but Jim Walraven knew he wasn’t dealing with conventional wisdom.
Walraven is a coordinator for Orgill’s Market Driven Research (MDR) program, a recommended precursor to any major store expansion. In the case of Hooten’s Hardware, Walraven and his team conducted demographic studies and typical household spends of the surrounding market, as well as price shopping the competition within a 30-mile range.
Walraven’s MDR report gave Hooten’s suggestions for variable pricing and advice on what to stock in his new 40,000-square-foot store. Ground was broken in October, and the store was completed in nine months. Almost every category was expanded, and several new departments—including housewares and appliances—were added.
“Hooten’s typical customer was a big guy with grease all over him who had just torn something apart,” explained Walraven. “There was no real draw for the female customer.”
Women now accompany their husbands into the store, browsing through the candles and picture frames while their spouses hunt down bolts for tractors, according to Hooten’s general manager Kirk Reams. The residents of Emory, Texas, population 1,004, no longer have to drive 30 miles to the nearest big box to buy a washing machine or refrigerator. Hooten’s added 1,000 feet of lawn and garden, new lines of outdoor power equipment and an expanded rental section. All of its major departments were enlarged.
“Orgill worked with what we had in our old store and built up from there,” Reams explained. “They had specific people to layout the store and other people to help with the [merchandising] and fixtures. It would have taken us a lot longer to do it ourselves.” C. J. Warner, the store’s Orgill sales rep, spent hours in front of the computer, setting up planograms and keying in inventory. He also persuaded vendors to do demonstrations and give away door prizes at the store’s June 14 grand opening. Hooten’s served 1,100 free lunches that day, which means the store fed the entire town of Emory plus 96 extra