Heidemann points to retail focus at AHMA event

Mundelein, Ill. Helping members was the major theme to emerge from the 2007 American Hardware Manufacturers Association (AHMA) Annual Membership Meeting held here June 27. AHMA president and CEO Tim Farrell described his industry group as one that is engaged in strategies to increase value and sales for its members. Shortly after his presentation, True Value’s president and CEO Lyle Heidemann delivered an update on the Chicago-based hardware cooperative -- including its efforts to help True Value members become the best hardware store in their respective towns.

Held at the Ivanhoe Club here outside of Chicago, the meeting also featured Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) director Fred Miller. AHMA directors and officers were also confirmed by the members.

Heidemann’s True Value update began with the CEO’s description of the co-op’s mindset from a “turn-around” mode to growth mode. Following accounting problems that led to major defections in 2003, Heidemann pointed to the years 2005 to 2006 as foundation building years. But from 2007 to 2009, “we believe we are now in a position for growth.”

That’s a far cry from the mindset of a turnaround -- described by Heidemann as “trying to make decisions good for tomorrow morning, so in fact you’re still in business the next morning.”

Pointing to the differences between the consistent chain-like big-box model and the independent diverse traditional co-op model, he said True Value intends to lay claim to the middle ground between the two. He also described a continuing transformation from a wholesale mindset to a retail mindset.

“The biggest shift we're trying to make as a company is one word: ‘retail.’ ” The measure that matters, he added, is the day-to-day profitability of the members, not end-of-year net margin for the co-op.

Another message of growth for the good of the membership came from Farrell. He described how the Schaumburg, Ill.-based industry association was engaged in reinventing itself and looking for new ways to be a value to members. The direction is to “acquire capabilities to increase value for AHMA members, increase membership of AHMA and increase revenue of AHMA,” he said.

Also during the meeting, 2007 AHMA chairman Don Dray of Rockford, Ill.-based Dasco Pro was recognized for “exceptional leadership” by past chairman Stuart Bush of Roebic Laboratories in Orange, Conn.