One of the ways Don Hasson measures success at House-Hasson Hardware, described as America’s largest regional hardware distributor, is by the silence of his telephone.
“Out of hundred dollars ordered, our goal is to ship $98 worth,” he said in an interview with HBSDealer. “That is where we are at, and that’s where our customers like us to be. We don’t get many phone calls. You get phone calls when it drops from there.”
Those kinds of phone calls haven’t been vexing Hasson, who points to a 98% service level in addition to a low error rate of one-half of one percent for the distribution network.
It’s been almost a year since House-Hasson Hardware acquired Birmingham, Alabama-based distributor Long-Lewis Hardware. With the acquisition, House-Hasson is running at about a 20% increase in business. And Hasson says the focus is on maintaining efficiency through the integration of the two distribution networks.
“My primary goal this year is to be certain that our metrics stay on track and that we continue to do the things you need to do well,” he said. “So we’re really spending this year absorbing that acquisition and being certain that our numbers are where they are supposed to be.”
House-Hasson was founded in 1906 (the same year as the first flight of the Wright Brothers). Under Don Hasson’s tenure, it has made four other acquisitions. “We understand what it takes,” he said.
House-Hasson operates two distribution centers: one in Knoxville, Tennessee, and one in Prichard, West Virginia. The acquisition of Long-Lewis required a shift in some of the flow of product, with the Southern customer base of Long-Lewis being served from Knoxville, and some existing House-Hasson customers moving into the orbit of Prichard.
The addition of the Long-Lewis business helps the distributor better compete on a number of fronts, he said. “I don’t think Home Depot is going to quiver in their boots, but it sure helps us to have more clout with our vendors, and there’s a lot of vendors that are very supportive of the two step-channel,” he said. “We’re good partners with a lot of those folks and vice versa. ”
House-Hasson serves some 2,000 independent hardware dealers, lumberyards and home centers in territories covering 18 states and parts of the Caribbean. (A “good number” of those are affiliated with a national co-op, or Orgill, he said.) Still, Hasson is comfortable with the “regional” approach to distribution, and prefers to focus on states east of the Mississippi River.
“We like it in this part of the world, and we see lots of additional opportunities to grow in this region,” he said.
Hasson pointed to a dealer Web design program as a way to compete in the digital world. In-house Web designers build customer sites for stores.
“We like it in this part of the world, and we see lots of additional opportunities to grow in this region.” “In addition to giving them a customized website, we also give them access to our inventory, our 50,000 items and a ship-to-store program, so their customers in their local markets can buy anything we have and go pick it up in store,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest in that program right now.”
We like it in this part of the world, and we see lots of additional opportunities to grow in this region.
The threat from Amazon and its like seems to loom larger than even the threat from the big-box home improvement center, according to Hasson’s view of the industry.
“I think if we were having this interview 10 or 15 years ago [the big box] would have been the biggest threat, the biggest topic and the biggest issue,” he said. “But I think now they are so inundated throughout the population that they’re an old competitor, not a new competitor, anybody who is going to be harmed or threatened by them, it’s already happened.”
Keeping an eye on e-commerce is one characteristic of successful retailer. There are others, and they are consistent, he believes.
“The top customers they all have a lot of certain characteristics, they’re clean, they’re well-merchandised, they’re priced right and they’re customer-oriented,” he said. “And every one of them that you visit, whether they be our top 100 or anybody else’s, that’s how they’re going to look.”