Handy Hardware attracts record attendance

Despite winter storms that slammed Texas transportation, Handy Hardware Wholesale hosted more than 725 dealers at its Houston market last week. That's a new record for the Houston-based hardware co-op. 

During the event's Feb. 5 breakfast meeting, Handy president Tina Kirbie updated members on what she called Handy's "two bold 2010 initiatives" -- a computer system conversion and the company's new Meridian, Miss., distribution center.

Both presented challenges, and both are seeing progress, Kirbie said in her remarks. 

Amid member concerns over the functionality of the new computer system, Kirbie pointed to "much progress" in the past several weeks and described the ongoing improvement as a "top priority for us." She added: "We are working diligently to amend areas that need to be improved." 

Part of the IT initiative involves a new-and-improved website: handyhardware.com. 

The Meridian, Miss., distribution center -- the company's original DC is in Houston -- is shipping product to members, she said. "The balancing act of moving business from Houston to Meridian has been challenging, but we're all getting better at it every week," she said.

The Meridian facility adds 463,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space to Handy, adding to Houston's 560,000 sq. ft.

Kirbie also pointed to Handy's history -- the co-op turns 50 years old in 2011. From first-year sales of $156,072, the co-op saw sales of more than $235 million in 2010, she said.

The Handy president also presented a variety of economic indicators that bode well for hardware stores in 2011. Among them was the recently raised GDP growth outlook from Goldman Sachs, increased from 2.0% to 2.7%.