Ace Hardware Celebrates Centennial Anniversary and Unveils New Initiatives with a Call to Action

Posted: March 22, 2024
Category: Industry News

Ace Hardware commenced its centennial celebration at the Spring 2024 Convention held in Dallas from March 12-14, unveiling new initiatives and a call to action from President and CEO John Venhuizen against complacency. Drawing on a sports analogy emphasizing playing to win rather than playing defensively, Venhuizen urged the cooperative’s retailers to be proactive and seek out fresh opportunities to expand their market share during his address at the General Session in the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center.

With dynamic sports movie scenes flashing on screens behind him, Venhuizen emphasized, “It is both astounding and incredibly disheartening to witness any team or business grow complacent with their success; it is a glaring sign of decline, a trend we observe all too often.”

Highlighting recent trends within the cooperative, Venhuizen pointed out, “We have just concluded our third consecutive year of decreasing transactions, with fewer customers visiting our stores. Last year marked a fractional decline in same-store sales, a first in 15 years – a concerning shift that cannot be overlooked or excused.”

Venhuizen warned that these gradual declines could eventually lead to profit erosion and stressed the importance of not merely aiming to maintain the status quo. Amidst the bustling atmosphere of the Ace Spring 2024 Convention, featuring lively demonstrations and informative sessions, thousands of retailers explored new products and engaged with vendors.

During his speech, Venhuizen shared success stories within the cooperative, including Ace stores achieving a 28 percent return on equity and an outstanding 87 percent of customers awarding Ace stores a perfect five out of five rating. He encouraged retailers to capitalize on opportunities in customer relations, professional contracting services, and business-to-business interactions within the market.

Venhuizen outlined a target for the average Ace store to generate around $4 million annually. To achieve this goal, he identified residential properties as an area warranting increased attention, emphasizing the potential in markets such as HVAC, plumbing, electrical services, and residential property maintenance – sectors worth an estimated $35 billion. The CEO previewed Ace’s initiatives exploring the burgeoning do-it-for-me market with testing programs like plumbing and painting services.

In a forward-looking conclusion to his presentation at the General Session, Venhuizen envisioned Ace as not just a player in the hardware industry but a beacon of hope within it, emphasizing the cooperative’s commitment to community service and the pivotal role of local leaders.

Additionally, Venhuizen expressed gratitude towards Brett Stephenson, the current chairman of the board at Ace, who will be succeeded by Steve Burggraf in May. The expanded pet area emerged as a popular attraction for retailers at the convention, particularly when featuring adoptable puppies.

Setting the tone for success and expansion, Andy Enright, Ace’s Vice President of Retail Development and Strategy, kicked off the General Session by highlighting consumer market insights and presenting growth opportunities for Ace retailers. Enright showcased the remarkable growth story of RT Ace Hardware in Broken Bow, Nebraska, under Joe and Liz Franssen’s ownership, demonstrating how adherence to the Ace Pinnacle Playbook led to doubled sales and sustained growth.

Inspired by the Franssens’ success, a new Ace store is set to open in Gothenburg, Nebraska. Enright emphasized that despite Ace’s century-old legacy and over 5,000 domestic outlets, there is ample room for thousands more Ace hardware stores across untapped markets. Enright announced plans to collaborate with Franklin Covey to develop a leadership training program aimed at nurturing new leaders essential for Ace’s expansion endeavors.