HAMPDEN TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — His name is Bryan. But you can probably call him David.
As in, David versus Goliath.
In an ever-bigger-and-bigger-box world of 100,000-plus-square-foot Lowe’s and Home Depot home improvement stores, does anybody in Bryan Sheldon’s life think he’s crazy to open the new 7,500-Kerry’s Ace Hardware here?
“Everybody in my life tells me I’m crazy to do this,” Sheldon said.
Are they correct?
“Probably, yeah,” Sheldon said. “They probably are.”
He’s joking, at least partly; otherwise, he wouldn’t be doing this. What’s interesting, though, is if he’s crazy, then so are a lot of other Americans.
Don’t look now, but Sheldon is actually part of a new trend.
“Both Home Depot and Lowe’s, for decades,” were in aggressive growth mode, said Garrick Brown, an economist with California-based Gallelli Real Estate. But not anymore, he said — they’re opening a few stores, closing a few others and basically, on a net basis, not growing in the U.S.; any North American growth for the chains, he said, is in Canada and Mexico.
But chains like Ace and True Value?
“Everything old is new again,” Brown said. “Ace Hardware, which for years was reducing its store counts — the last two years, they’ve averaged between 50 and 80 new stores per year.”
He said not all succeed, but more succeed than fail.
A possible reason?
“There’s definitely something that the small retailers and the independently-owned groups can deliver that’s a little bit more challenging for super-large chains,” Brown said.
Sheldon said that “something” can be a higher level of service.
“We very much try to solve your problem, not sell you a product,” he said.
Still, Sheldon knows a store needs to sell products to sell in business. How optimistic is he?
“Well, we’re going to try,” he said. “you know, I mean, “The best you can do is try in life…. We think we have a model for success.”
One of the biggest challenges?
“Convincing people that shopping a hometown store, they can still get a very good deal,” said Sheldon, who said his grandmother grew up along Maplewood Avenue in Mechanicsburg.
Unlike Lowe’s and Home Depot, which are publicly traded companies, Ace and True Value are cooperatives of independent owners like Sheldon, who buy shares in the companies in order to open a store.