Indy Hardware Stores Find Service Aces Big Box Test

Sep 13, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The operators of independently owned Ace Hardware stores in Northeast Florida have discovered that, every time a new Home Depot or Lowe’s opens up in their market, it means lost
business — for a year.

After that, the retailers told The Business Journal of Jacksonville, business not only comes back, it exceeds what they were doing prior to the big boxes opening their

The reason for the turnaround, say the retailers, is their ability to adapt offering unique products and superior customer service to the typical chain store competitor.

How many of the big boxes, for example, could make the same promise as the Ace Hardware stores? “Customers can be in and out of their stores in five to 10 minutes, with what
they need and the knowledge to use it from a store employee who will remember them the next time they shop.”

The retailers interviewed by The Business Journal of Jacksonville offered examples of what they’ve done to set themselves apart from Home Depot, Lowe’s and even Wal-Mart.

  • Monk’s Ace Hardware scaled back its lawn and garden department and focused on plumbing, electrical and lawnmower service. It also began renting U-Hauls.

  • Hagan Ace Hardware added a pool department, began specialty barbecue grills and hired master gardeners to work in its lawn and garden department. It has also found an add-on
    business selling replacement parts for the power tools sold in Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Moderator’s Comment: What lessons can other retailers, in and out of the DIY channel, learn from the example of the Ace Hardware operators in Northeast

The Business Journal of Jacksonville article points out a couple of times that big boxes account for about 20 percent of total hardware store
sales in the U.S. leaving plenty of business to be picked up by Ace Hardware and others.

The biggest test for the independents, however, is still ahead. Raymond Fachko, owner/manager of Brandies Ace Hardware and president of Jacksonville Ace
Hardware Advertising Group, believes consumers under 30 know what they see on television, which is largely home improvement shows sponsored by the big boxes.

Targeting and reaching these consumers is critical to the future success of independents, said Mr. Fachko.
George Anderson – Moderator

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