Mike Clark took over as True Value senior vp and chief merchandising officer in April, replacing Steve Mahurin, who had spent the previous four years improving the co-op’s merchandising performance, helping develop the new Destination True Value retail format and creating hundreds of Certified True Blue (CTB) product assortments.
In his first months on the job, Clark, a 35-year retail veteran who was most recently merchandise manager at Orchard Supply Hardware, has continued to develop these programs. But he’s also set to make his own mark on the Chicago-based co-op by—quite simply—thinking like a retailer.
Here’s what Clark told Home Channel News about how he plans to move the co-op forward in areas like the new retail format, global sourcing and eco-friendly products.
Home Channel News: What is the one thing you want people to know about you and how you plan to manage at True Value?
Mike Clark: I’d like True Value retailers to know that, like many of them, I grew up in a retail store. My dad ran a small store in Wisconsin, and I did everything from mop floors to stock shelves. Growing up in that environment, combined with more than 35 years of retail experience, I understand the needs of retailers and plan to integrate that insight into the development of future merchandise programs.
HCN: What do you think are the most important merchandising programs Mahurin’s team started, and are you continuing them?
Clark: We will continue and refine our product line reviews to further enhance merchandise presentations, update assortments and improve member sales and margins. Our focus will be on Destination True Value and to ensure Destination True Value assortments remain productive and relevant.
HCN: In what new directions will you be taking the merchandising efforts of the co-op?
Clark: As True Value continues to become an increasingly retail-focused company, I plan to drive “the retail mindset.” By thinking like a retailer, we—the merchandising team and the co-op in general—will be able to anticipate and quickly respond to the needs of our retailers.
We will develop assortments based on point-of-sale data, so we approach every product decision as a retailer would.
HCN: A couple of other merchandising executives left after you took over as well. What is your strategy for filling those positions and reshaping the department?
Clark: We are currently interviewing a number of great candidates, and I’m very confident we will fill our open positions with executives that will provide excellent leadership.
Our merchandising organization will be a member-centric organization with the best interests of our members front and center of everything we do.
HCN: What do you feel are some of the most pressing issues facing hardware stores today, and how are you trying to help True Value stores deal with them?
Clark: The hardware industry has become increasingly competitive, and True Value retailers are competing for consumers’ disposable income.
Independent store owners also face the growing presence of big-box competition. Yet, not surprisingly, independent store owners still lead the industry in answering the customer demand for one-on-one, trust worthy customer service. Independent retailers also cater to the repair and maintenance category, which has proven strong and less influenced by a softer market.
HCN: How do you think the Destination True Value form at is helping the stores that have adopted it?
Clark: Extensive consumer research tells us that DIY customers like the competitive strengths of the neighborhood independent retailer, that they’re conveniently located, and can offer superior, friendly and knowledge able service, and products tailored to meet local market needs. These elements were top-of-mind as we designed Destination True Value, the new store format, so it’s no surprise to us that the model has been so well-embraced by our retailers and their customers.
HCN: How important is the global sourcing program, and how are you getting a leg up on the competition with it?
Clark: The volume of our globally sourced products has grown dramatically in recent years. Quality and safety are key to global sourcing, and True Value’s global sourcing program has very robust quality assurance programs in place. We believe our approach to global sourcing is unique and a suitable competitive advantage.
HCN: What about Greener Options? How important is this program to True Value, and do you expect it to show significant growth?
Clark: Greener Options, True Value’s environmental merchandising program, is continuing to grow and play a larger role in our overall merchandising program. Right now Greener Options offers more than 2,000 products in four different categories: Energy Saving, Water Saving, Cleaner Air and Environmentally Friendly Home. We are continuing to evaluate products and add them to the program.
I do expect our Greener Options program will expand. As the popularity of eco-friendly and “green” products rises, our retailers will want to meet that growing demand.