At a time when small department stores are losing ground to mass competition, the Hacketts chain of 40,000-plus-square-foot stores in northern New York is in full expansion mode. With departments including clothing, sporting goods, bed and bath, giftware and gourmet foods, the Ogdensburg, N.Y.-based company just opened its seventh store and is in the midst of preparing for three more grand openings in the near future.
But then Hacketts has a bit of an edge—or difference—in the marketplace. Several of the stores have full-line True Value Hardware departments with traditional hardware, tools, plumbing, paint and electrical categories.
“A lot of small, independent hardware stores are pretty much run by a handful of people, and it’s really difficult to be open seven days a week like we are—and nights,” said fifth generation owner and vp-merchandising Julie Hackett Cliff. “Because of the size of our staff, we are able to keep up with the big-box stores, which I think is a competitive advantage.”
The hardware connection goes back almost to the roots of Hackett’s. The business opened in 1830 as a ship chandlery in Ogdensburg, which was then a busy shipping port along the St. Lawrence River. Over time, Hacketts became a foundry, then a tinsmithing service, always carrying a certain portion of hardware-related goods. In the late 1950s, when a seaway development channeled out the St. Lawrence, Hacketts went full-fledged into hardware. The following decade, the company relocated to a new 16,000-square-foot store, which was doubled in size in 1982 and now has 40,000 square feet of retail space.
Hacketts joined the True Value co-op in 1969 in order to be more competitive in areas like housewares, lawn and garden and other seasonal items. “At the time, True Value had a division called VNS, which had health and beauty aids, crafts, fabrics and some clothing, and it was that association with True Value that got us to expand into clothing and gifts,” said Hackett Cliff.
As Hacketts continued to evolve into a department store in the 1990s, the company hired former Sears exec Norman Garrelts to help gain an edge on the burgeoning Walmart franchise. “When Walmart came to town, we lost $1 million in sales,” said Garrelts, who came on board as CEO in 1995. “So we began to offer more upscale brands, and not only did we get our million bucks back, we probably gained a million in sales.”<