William Aubuchon IV, vice president of sales for Aubuchon Hardware, wants the family stores his great-grandfather started more than 100 years ago to be “destination hardware stores.” For Aubuchon, this means continuing to offer the best customer service possible in larger locations, with wider product selection and specialized departments, such as full-service plumbing and paint.
Aubuchon and the company’s management team – comprised largely of family members – have a strategy in place to reach their objectives and keep their brand current and prosperous. It entails expanding the stores’ footprints and re-vamping the Aubuchon website to offer better selection and service.
Aubuchon Hardware stores include small legacy stores that vary in size from 4,000 to 6,000 square feet. To give customers a better shopping experience, the company is moving toward a bigger store model, with a target size of 10,000 to 12,000 square feet. “These will still be moderately sized stores, comfortable for our customers to navigate, but they will offer us better opportunities in terms of merchandising,” Aubuchon explains.
To reach its goal of expanding its footprint, Aubuchon Hardware is spearheading a multi-pronged approach of expanding stores wherever possible, re-locating and re-building where it makes sense and pursuing acquisitions of larger established stores. “There are a lot of privately owned and operated hardware stores by baby-boomers,” Aubuchon explains. “Many of the owners are ready to retire and have no family members to take over the business. When they sell to us, it’s a mutually beneficial transaction. They sell to a company that will take care of their customers as they have for years, and we get the larger space we need.”
Aubuchon says 39 of the 118 stores in the Aubuchon Hardware store inventory are “destination” locations, and the company plans to keep steadily adding locations over time.
The company is updating its online presence at hardwarestore.com, too. “Our website does a lot more than the sales we record,” Aubuchon explains. “It is a catalog above and beyond what we carry in our stores, so it gives our customers access to more products and the convenience of ordering online or at the store.”
The new features Aubuchon is implementing online will enable clients to receive detailed information on every item and check for in-stock products at the nearest locations. Customers will also be able to have any of the 80,000 items available online shipped for pick up at their local store for free, whether it’s a small bolt or a lawn tractor.
Aubuchon is re-launching the learning center portion of its website as a blog with tips, tricks and information on do-it-yourself projects. “We are working with local interior designer, author and color expert Lu Samu to develop a blog with original content,” he says. “It will be authentic, unique content aimed at inspiring customers with small projects.”
The new blog with Samu’s advice will appear also in the company’s flyers and circulars, as well as in a quarterly magazine called Aubuchon at Home with seasonal project advice. “It’s a coordinated effort across all our marketing channels,” Aubuchon says. “We are also hosting paint color seminars at our stores led by Samu for our customers, and training sessions for our employees.”
That focus on paint ties in with the new relationship Aubuchon Hardware has established with Benjamin Moore. “Benjamin Moore is a company that is committed to the independent channel. You can’t buy their products at big box stores, so it’s a natural fit with us and our mentality,” Aubuchon explains. “Benjamin Moore offers a very high-quality product that requires a lot of service, which is right up our alley. Our relationship with Lu Samu and our commitment to color training for our employees just takes it to another level.”
The relationship with Benjamin Moore gives Aubuchon Hardware access to the latest technology in the paint industry. “They are a company in the cutting-edge of that industry. They have developed new water-based products with low-VOC [volatile organic compounds] that exceed the performance of their previous products,” Aubuchon says. “This includes color match technology that matches any color the customer desires. We are also able to store color formulas for our clients, so if someone paints their whole house, three year later they can come back and we’ll have the exact color and formula they used stored in our system.”
Aubuchon views the communities the stores serve as extensions of the family. “Each store has a budget that is exclusively dedicated to community outreach such as sponsoring little league, getting involved in the local Rotary Club, etc.,” Aubuchon says.
The company has a community appreciation day, where a portion of the sales on a particular weekend is given back to the local community for charity work. Also, as part of the company’s 100-year anniversary in 2008, Aubuchon started the Aubuchon Foundation to support local charities.
Aubuchon plans for the stores to continue to serve communities in New England and upstate New York, where they have been part of the local fiber for more than 100 years, with larger stores, a better website and the same customer-focused service that helped it reach a century in business.