john venhuizen
John Venhuizen President & CEO | Ace Hardware
What were some challenges in 2022 and how did Ace address them?
Inflation is a beast and the “tools” to tackle it—Federal Reserve tightening and interest rate hikes—are all designed toward demand degradation.

In uncertain times like these, the natural inclination is to hunker down, but it is important to remain strategically consistent and control what you can control. For over 98 years, Ace Hardware has shown that when we stay true to our game, it serves us well. We want to continue to be the best at service and leverage the convenience our retailers offer in their neighborhoods.

What types of operational investments will Ace make in 2023 and what will be the impact on your members?
Despite headwinds and uncertainty, Ace’s capital expenditures in 2023 will be the largest in company history.

We want to stay strategically consistent and operationally aggressive, but will also stay fiscally conservative, being more judicious with spending while still investing in the resources and capital that are fueling the business. We believe we have a plan for what’s working, and we are going to stay consistent with that strategy. We’re not cutting back on what drives our growth and expands our capacity, which includes all of our retail tools and initiatives and the expansion of our distribution center capacity. Ace has committed to investing $800 million in the next five years to Ace’s supply chain, focusing on personnel, technology and network expansion.

We remain enthusiastically bullish about the continued prospect for new store growth. I applaud our local Ace owners for the pace with which they’ve integrated our digital efforts with our physical assets. Seventy percent of Acehardware.com orders are picked up in store, and 20% are delivered to customers by our own red-vested heroes, thus further advancing the relevance and necessity of our neighborhood stores.

How are you helping your members address technology?
Our digital transformation initiatives began long ago. We are thankful first, to be agnostic as to how, when and where customers shop and also to have the resources to continuously invest in technology to improve speed, reduce cost, and drive the business forward.

How are you helping your members address business transition and succession planning?
We have internal and external resources for business planning, succession planning and business valuation. When the time comes, our passion is to help hardware store owners (of any affiliation) monetize their life’s work.

How are you helping your members address company culture and employee engagement?
We have a plethora of tools to help Ace owners measure employee and customer engagement, improve employee and customer engagement, and to operationalize these initiatives into the values and culture of the business.

There’s really no silver bullet to solve hiring issues, and while it’s not perfect, the Ace way of retailing includes numerous paths, from recruiting to onboarding to development, that offer hiring tools and resources for retailers along every step. Local owners can also use their store and community culture to their advantage to recruit and retain employees. When store owners are capable of executing on the basic tools we offer them, their culture is what will help bring in and retain good workers.

What are your projections for 2023 for the industry and for your organization?
The battlefield is fraught with challenges, but we believe we are up for the fight.

To read our complete 2023 Market Measure, click here.


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