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Cinde W. Ingram

Merchandising Award Winner

Hartville Hardware focuses on clearing inventory

Barbara CrowhurstBarbara Crowhurst
Hartville hardware has some fresh strategies for clearing stale inventory as a result of its consultation with Retail Makeover President Barbara Crowhurst.
     Hartville Hardware won the consultation as its prize for Best First-Time Entry in Casual Living's 2012 Merchandising Awards competition, for which Crowhurst served on the judging panel. Before the consultation, she had contacted Hartville Hardware to find out what its team was most interested in her covering in order to increase its sales and profitability.
     "Our big challenge was in knowing how to clear out product at the end of the season," said Steve McMillen, seasonal department manager at Hartville Hardware. "We've put some things in place to make it easier to do that, starting at the end of this season."
     Five of Hartville Hardware's approximately 175 employees were in the room for the consultation, McMillen said. "We really fired a lot of questions at her," he said. "We actually went in bunch of different directions."
     Although not all of Crowhurst's suggestions have been implemented, the Hartville, Ohio-based team found the discussion interesting. "It was very helpful," McMillen said. "It brought some things to mind that we hadn't really thought of. It was a different way of looking at some of our challenges. We liked what we heard."
     Crowhurst had advised retailers at the Casual Living Conference in February to set daily sales targets, track sales by category and clear out dated product to improve inventory management. "If product has been in your store for over one year, the test is over," she said. "Either you bought too much or it was overpriced or not promoted well or your staff didn't like it, didn't believe in it and didn't sell it."
This Hartville HardwareThis Hartville Hardware vignette coordinates outdoor furniture and accessories to appeal to customers, along with nearby displays of grills and garden products.

     McMillen said he returned from last month's HPB Expo with some good ideas and a couple of new product sources he was looking for. "Our grill sales have been very strong," he said. "We were actually strong all through the winter. This is the first year we left everything out, pretty much the way it was through Christmas. We did very well with grill accessories over Christmas. So far this year, it's been cold most of the time ... but we had a good amount of grill sales already this year.
     Noting Hartville Hardware sells Weber and Big Green Egg brands, McMillen said other specialty retailers who want to compete against mass merchants can do that with either of those two brands. "I don't think any of the boxes are carrying the Big Green Egg and Weber guards their price pretty close, which puts everybody on a level playing field so if you want to compete, you can," he said. "We've got 80 running feet of just grill accessories. We just brought a new pizza oven in from a grill company we picked up last spring. We don't do any of the cheap grills; that's more trouble than it's worth. We do quite a grill business and we have a pretty loyal following. I'm real passionate about grilling."

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