True Value looks to transform

Atlanta – An information-packed general session here at the True Value Reunion included up-close interviews with a new slate of senior executives and an update on the co-op’s long-running strategic planning effort.

And there was also a little comedy on the stage, as actors impersonated shoppers experiencing BBTSD, or “big box traumatic stress disorder.”

True Value CEO John Hartmann, at his second “Reunion,” – the new term for the co-op’s twice-yearly market and convention – described 2014 as a “transformational year” for the co-op. 

Expected to play a role in that transformation is a co-op-wide strategic planning process, in which the co-op has been engaged for several months. The results of the process will be released at the group’s Fall Reunion in October. 

“We’re not building something to collect dust on a shelf, I can promise you that,” Hartmann said. “This will be an execution plan with a focus that will improve performance.”

Stating the importance of transparency to the co-op’s strength, Hartmann shared some numbers. Gross billings reached $1.9 billion in 2013, about the same as 2012. Comp-store retail sales grew 2.1%, and wholesale comp-store sales increased 2.4%, on a gross-billing basis.

The co-op will deliver a patronage dividend of $54.3 million, he said.

Regarding store acquisition and attrition, Hartmann shared that True Value Company welcomed 139 stores to the co-op, while 137 stores left True Value last year. Of the new stores, 41 were brand new, and 98 were converted from other co-ops or buying organizations. However, not counted in the above math is the number of stores that simply closed during the year.

Hartmann revealed some results from the strategic planning survey that was sent out to members late last year.

With the survey showing that members purchase about 75% of their products through True Value, Hartmann encouraged members to buy through the co-op. If members’ increased warehouse purchases by 5%, the patronage dividend would increase by 25%, Hartmann stressed. 

Hartmann emphasized the message that True Value is committed to improving. “Are we satisfied with our performance? Are we satisfied with our competitive position? Are we absolutely sure we have a sustainable business model? I can provide one simple answer - no we are not.”

During a series of on-stage interviews with the new slate of True Value executive, senior VP and Chief Merchandising Officer Ken Goodgame, earned spontaneous applause when he said: “When I was at Black & Decker, just beginning in the business, True Value was the big dog. We want to return True Value to the top spot with a sense of urgency.”

Goodgame, who came to True Value from a similar position at Ace, was one of three new senior leaders introduced on stage. He was joined by Abhinav Shukla senior VP and COO; and Tim Mills the company's new senior VP of growth.

Shukla was most recently with AlixPartners, where he focused on global supply chain and performance for Fortune 500 companies. Mills was most recently VP and general manager for the Power Solutions division of HD Supply.