Eldridge Hardware & Building Supply Revamps Product Assortment

Eldridge Hardware & Building Supply in Waycross, Ga., has seen a lot of changes over its 85-year history. The biggest change took place recently, when Owner Pete Eldridge had House-Hasson do an extreme makeover of his 10,000-square-foot salesfloor.

House-Hasson’s Vice President of Marketing David Helfenberger handled all the planning for the store set. “He and his crew did an outstanding job. It went very smoothly,” Eldridge said.

The whole store was changed in one form or another, with fixtures moved and new bin labels installed. However, the biggest transformation happened to the merchandise mix, which underwent an extensive fine-tuning. “We deleted some slow movers and added in quite a few new items,” Eldridge says. “You could say we eliminated the pink elephants and brought in some fast movers.

The electrical department was improved the most, but all the core categories now have a market-right assortment that meets the needs of customers. Another important change was to place a new emphasis on endcaps. “Now we’re able to better feature sale and promotional items with our endcaps,” Eldridge points out.

Eldridge had been buying from Moore-Handley when the wholesaler was bought out by House-Hasson in late 2009. “House-Hasson does a good job with everything. They’re a very well-run company,” he says.

His House-Hasson sales rep, Richard Meyers, does an outstanding job, according to Eldridge. “He’ll go the extra mile for you.”

The business was founded by Pete’s grandfather in 1926 as a grocery/hardware combination. Pete’s father, Frank Eldridge Jr., took over but then got active in politics. He ended up spending 17 years as a state senator and then went on to serve as secretary of the Georgia Senate for nearly 14 legislative sessions. He was also executive director of the Georgia Public Service Commission.

When Frank Eldridge Jr. passed away in 2006 at the age of 73, his long-time friend, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, ordered the State Capitol flags to fly at half-staff. “Frank Eldridge devoted a lifetime of service to the people of Georgia. He was a true servant leader,” said Governor Perdue.

When Pete’s father got busy with politics, an 18-year-old named Ben Taylor stepped in and took charge of the business. “Fifty years later, Taylor is still with us and very active in the business,” Pete proudly notes. “We do a lot of roof truss business, and he does all our roof truss design and takeoff work.”

As for Pete, he entered the family business full time in 1971, and he finds it hard to believe he’s been involved in it for 40 years himself. “I really enjoy this business and taking care of customers,” he says. His sister, Zeda Eldridge, has also stayed active in the business and she runs the back office.

Eldridge Hardware & Building Supply gets 75 percent of its sales from professional customers, but it’s still a tough housing market out there. “We’ve cut back on our overhead as much as we can, cutting out overtime. Remodeling activity has stayed fairly strong and there have been some encouraging signs the past 60 days,” Eldridge says, adding that he would like to see the market get strong enough that he can afford to build a new truss plant.

The remerchandising has helped the store solidify its reputation with professional customers. “We’ve gotten a lot of good comments about how the store looks. It leaves a favorable impression on people,” Eldridge notes.

He also likes the fact that House-Hasson keeps him updated on pricing so he can stay competitive. “That’s the best part of the Electronic Toolbox,” he says.

Eldridge has attended several House-Hasson markets and thinks they are outstanding. “They keep you on the leading edge with products and everyone treats you like a king,” he says. “I was having lunch at one of the markets and all of a sudden this gentleman sits down and introduces himself—it was Don Hasson.”

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