As online sales proliferate, brands and retailers are adopting innovative strategies to boost sales and pique customer interest in brick-and-mortar locations. Ace Hardware — a nationwide home improvement goods merchant — has rolled out several “Express” store models to drive growth in smaller markets, improve brand awareness and formulate more loyal relationships with retail partners.
Designed for stores with 5,000 square feet or less, the “Express” model “includes customized merchandising displays and stocks more than 11,000 of the most popular and profitable hardware products,” Mike Berschauer, Director of Retail Development, Ace Hardware Corporation, told Retail TouchPoints.
Ace Hardware’s main goal for the ”Express” format is “to drive incremental store growth in markets that aren’t able to accommodate additional full-size retail locations,” Berschauer explained. “We are confident that there will be a need and demand for customized merchandising displays, product offerings and tailored resources among both current Ace retailers and other business owners seeking to integrate the Ace brand into existing offerings.”
As of July 2012, there were approximately 400 “Express” Ace Hardware locations in six states throughout the U.S. including Kansas, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. “We continuously are investigating potential new markets,” Berschauer said, “and meeting face-to-face with retailers for whom the ‘Express’ format would be a strong fit.”
By mirroring in-store experiences, merchandising and store design concepts provided in larger locations, the new “Express” stores can be rolled out in one of four brick-and-mortar models. These include:
- The Store Within a Store model integrates Ace Hardware merchandise and services into existing grocery and paint stores.
“Not only does the ‘store within a store’ model create additional exposure for the Ace brand and its product lines, it also drives additional customer traffic for the retailer,” Berschauer noted. “In fact, retailer partners who have integrated this format tell us that they’re attracting additional customers thanks to a diversified product selection and ability to serve as a one-stop-shop for their communities.”
- Annex Locations allow current Ace retailers to open smaller “branch” stores near their main retail locations.
- With the Rural Markets format, farm and ranch supply storeowners can fulfill the home improvement needs of a specific segment or geographic location.
- Urban Markets allows retailers to introduce smaller locations that provide the ideal shopping experience for urban consumers.
“The Annex, Rural and Urban models offer consumers the convenience of shopping for products closer to home and the confidence that comes with purchasing items from the trusted Ace brand,” Berschauer said. “They provide the best of both worlds.”
Ace Hardware is providing incentives of up to $150,000 for retailers adopting the “Express” format, according to Berschauer. Additionally, the brand has formulated a variety of resources, such as product guides and planograms, to ensure optimal merchandise selection and store design for its partners.