HomeWhat a Concept - Home Hardwares largest store

What a Concept - Home Hardwares largest store

Jun 1 2001

One of the newest stores in the Home Hardware fleet may not just be the co-op's biggest in size, it's probably one of the more original independent outlets in terms of display, layout and services, which include auto repair and a donut shop. At 55,000 square feet, Southport Home Hardware in Charlottetown, PEI features some beautifully decorated boutique-style departments, a Kitchen area with 12 exceptionally merchandized kitchen vignettes, a Radio Shack and full-service rental centre and a large garden centre.

This summer, after more renovations are completed, customers will be able to pick up building materials at the drive through lumberyard. They can already take their car into the three-bay service shop for a lube, oil change and tire rotation. And did we mention that while they wait for their car, they can browse with a coffee and donut they bought at the Tim Hortons inside the store?

"We're aggressive to a fault," laughs owner Tim Banks, who is also president of the APM Group, a retail development firm that builds stores in Atlantic Canada for chains like Loblaws, the Toronto-based grocer. Banks acquired the 50-year-old contractor-oriented, lumberyard and 30,000 square foot store (formerly King Building Supplies) about two years ago before relocating and expanding it. "We understand how important location and size is. We did a lot of research on the front end."

The new store is situated in a growing retail corridor on the Trans Canada highway, just up the street from the old store in Stratford, a town situated across the Hillsborough River from Charlottetown. There's a bit of a mental barrier associated with crossing the river to the province's biggest city, explains the store's general manager Paul Daley. "It's not far to drive across the bridge, but people don't necessarily want to drive across if they can get it here."

Why build that big, though? And why add services like car repairs? According to Banks, research done prior to the store's construction showed there were 102 auto repair bays in Charlottetown (trading area population 55,000) and only seven in Stratford (17,000). Also, there were nine garden centres in Charlottetown and none in Stratford. "The area was deficient in all these things," Banks recalls. Perhaps that's why three hours into opening day in December, all 40 shopping carts in the store were in use. "one of our employees came running up to me saying "Tim, where's the shopping carts? They're all gone." I said, "I think they're all outside." Our [customer] visits to the store in March are up something like 130 percent compared to the previous store."

Customers walking through the entrance of Southport Home Hardware are met with high ceilings in the front one-third of the store. On one side they'll find the Radio Shack and on the other the Tim Hortons. Further down to the left and right are the garden centre and auto bays. Though the store is big, the interior was designed purposefully for a more intimate feel. "we didn't want people to think there was product falling all over them," Banks explains. "we didn't want to overwhelm people with the idea of being a big box." Daley adds: "The comment from everyone is: 'It's a totally different store.' "

Banks also believes the Southport concept can work in other towns and says he'd be interested in forming partnerships with other Home dealers to transfer his store model to other markets, noting Southport can be recreated with smaller footprints of about 30,000 square feet.

That's not to say that the fine-tuning is done. In April, the construction of a 2,800 square foot drive-through Metro Credit Union was announced for the parking lot ------ an excellent traffic-builder.

"And that's only going to add to our business," says Banks. -

Excerpt from Hardware Merchandizing magazine.

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