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Kate Kirkpatrick
Corporate Media Relations
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Oak Brook, Ill.,
26
September
2016

Ace Hardware retailers express business optimism despite economic turbulence in small business sector

Survey reveals nearly 90% of Ace retailer respondents – independent small business owners –intend to grow and expand operations in the near term

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Ace Hardware Corporation, the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the world, today unveiled new data from its biennial Retailer Satisfaction Survey* that point to strong business optimism among Ace retail store owners, despite an otherwise uncertain small business climate in the U.S.

Survey results from 765 Ace Hardware retail store owners revealed a large majority of surveyed Ace retailers have ambitious growth and expansion plans charted for their businesses in the next two years. Most notably, nearly 90% of Ace Hardware store owners reported optimism about their future business outlook and 64% plan to create more jobs.

Key economic outlook findings from the Ace Hardware biennial Retailer Satisfaction Survey:

  • 82% of retailers plan to add new merchandise categories;
  • 77% intend to renovate their stores or take on departmental renovations;
  • 71% of store owners plan to add new target segments into their stores sales efforts (e.g. Business to Business);
  • 64% of surveyed retailers plan to grow their workforce;
  • Nearly 20% of retailers plan to add square footage to their existing stores; and
  • More than a quarter of surveyed retailers plan to open a new store.

The positive sentiments outlined by Ace store owners stand in stark contrast to the overall small business climate in the U.S. This month, the National Federation of Independent Business reported a dismal small business outlook, citing the Index of Small Business Optimism declined two-tenths of a point in August to 94.4 – a figure that sits well below the 42-year average of 98. The report attributes the decline to, “owners refusing to expand; expecting worse business conditions; and unable to fill open positions.”

Conversely, Ace is on track to open an estimated 160 new stores across the U.S. in 2016; this is in addition to the 750 new stores that have opened in the last five years.

John Venhuizen, President and CEO, Ace Hardware Corporation
“Leave it to the Helpful Hardware men and women to provide a light of hope in an otherwise dark business outlook,” said John Venhuizen, President and CEO of Ace Hardware Corporation. “The optimism of our owners is further evidence of the locally empowered, Ace entrepreneurial formula that’s working in an age where big-box stores, online shopping pressures and other external obstacles, like over-regulation, healthcare costs and taxation, can easily derail small businesses,” said Venhuizen. 
John Venhuizen, President and CEO, Ace Hardware Corporation

“Whether it’s acquisitions, major renovations and expansions, or aisle-by-aisle merchandising resets, to say we are in ‘growth mode’ is truly an understatement,” said Chuck Bickel, owner of nine, soon to be 10 Ace Hardware stores throughout Pennsylvania. “The confidence I have to grow my business comes from a few different sources. I am proud and humbled that our stores are growing faster than the rest of retail, with 7-10% year-over-year sales growth in strong years; and even in slower years, we are still seeing positive net growth. Second, being part of the Ace Hardware cooperative makes taking on major growth projects more financially and mechanically feasible because of the tremendous support we receive. As a result, the task of growing really isn’t that overwhelming.”

Venhuizen went on to comment, “We don’t sell crystal balls at Ace, but I can assure you of this: whether we are headed for a recession or economic expansion, whether voters elect Clinton or Trump, our local Ace owners will remain irrationally committed to their neighbors, their neighborhoods and the red-vested heroes who work in their stores. Ace owners have been loyal and inspiring for 92 years; next month’s economic data won’t change that.”

Ownership in the Ace Hardware co-op provides its independent store owners with many benefits, including access to one of the strongest brand names in the industry, with brand perception scores that consistently outperform the competition in the convenience hardware industry.**

In addition, the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Home Improvement Retailer Store Satisfaction StudySM again ranked Ace Hardware “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Home Improvement Retail Stores, Ten Years in a Row.”***

Furthermore, Ace offers its stores access to hundreds of thousands of products through its massive merchandising and distribution networks, full-service marketing, advertising, retail training and operations support, as well as industry-leading incentives for new investors and existing stores with expansion plans.

*Ace Hardware engaged Liminality, Inc., a third party market research and strategy firm, to facilitate and analyze survey data.
**Millward Brown Study, 2016.
*** Ace Hardware received the highest numerical score among retail stores in the proprietary J.D. Power 2016 Home Improvement Retail Store StudySM. Study based on responses from 2,995 consumers measuring six stores and opinions of consumers who purchased a home improvement product or service within the previous 12 months. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of consumers surveyed January-February 2016. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.

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About Ace Hardware

For more than 90 years, Ace Hardware has been known as the place with the helpful hardware folks in thousands of neighborhoods across America, providing customers with a more personal kind of helpful. In 2016, Ace ranked "Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Home Improvement Retail Stores, Ten Years in a Row," according to J.D. Power. With more than 4,900 hardware stores locally owned and operated across the globe, Ace is the largest retailer-owned hardware cooperative in the world. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., Ace and its subsidiaries currently operate 17 distribution centers in the U.S. and also have distribution capabilities in Ningbo, China; Colon, Panama; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Its retailers' stores are located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and approximately 60 countries. For more information on Ace, visit www.acehardware.com.