Handy Hardware shows strength

In San Antonio, a city known for its historic stands, Handy Hardware stood up for growth in the hardware business. Fall market attendance was up, and so were warehouse sales.

Houston-based Handy Hardware celebrated a 40 percent increase in warehouse sales at its fall market in San Antonio last month. The 1,200-store hardware co-op also saw attendance rise 8 percent over the spring market in February, giving a boost to the 750 or so vendors displaying at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center Aug. 14 to 16.

“We talked to distributors who have been having a bad year, and when they saw attendance was up 8 percent, they couldn’t believe it,” said Mickey Schulte, Handy Hardware’s vp-marketing and purchasing.

The market—Handy’s first-ever out side Houston—featured special sections of new products (1,100 have been added to the warehouse since the spring market) and green products, which now number more than 120. One of the busiest areas was paint and sundries, as Handy has done several conversions in the past three months, Schulte said. The company has carried PDG paint for 15 years and Valspar for the last three years.

As for the whopping 40 percent increase in sales over last year’s fall event? “Inflation is a small part of it, but our economy is still pretty good in this region,” Schulte said. “When property values were going through the roof, ours went up some but not a lot, so we’re not experiencing as much of a housing slump.”

It seems everything has been coming up roses for Handy Hardware. The co-op’s sales are up 7 percent through the first seven months of 2008, including an 18 percent jump in July. Schulte says it’s a simple matter of economics. “We have all the basic programs everyone else has, but with little or no fees,” he said. “Our claim to fame is the lowest delivered prices in the industry.”

Member services include circular programs, signage, credit card programs, planograms and more. Handy Hardware was formed with 19 members in 1961 and now has almost 1,200 stores in the fold—many of which are also associated with one of the major co-ops.