According to Colette Bell, vice president of franchise development, the gains in the program are partly the result of big trend in home improvement. “Homeowners have increasingly less knowledge about how to do simple projects around the house,” she said, speaking along with a panel of Ace store owners at the recent Ace Convention in Orlando.
Eric Hassett, owner of Hassett Ace Hardware, who added services in January of 2023, described Handyman as a “huge field of opportunity.” He pointed to Do-it-for-me as a big trend: “As you look at market data, there’s a big shift from 60 percent DIY to 40 percent DIY. It’s happening in all of our categories. We decided to adopt a more commercial-oriented approach.”
Kyle Sheahan, of Mutual Ace Hardware in Highland Park, Illinois, and who added Handyman in April, said his business was able to get cash-flow positive very quickly.
Perhaps surprisingly, the veteran retailer added: “It’s a hell of a lot easier than running a retail store, and margins are a lot better.”
Ace Craftsmen provide a variety of services—1,162 different household projects, according to the website. According to the dealers, popular projects include fixing doors, installing pocket doors, sheds, and just about everything.
The key to the success of the home services model, based on a session at the Ace Orlando Convention is hiring and retaining good tradespeople – known as “craftsmen” in the program —to perform the work in the customers’ homes.
Craftsman employed in the program are not subcontractors, but rather hourly W2 employees.
“It’s easy to find a craftsman,” said David Palmer, of Palmer Ace Hardware in River Edge, New Jersey, who added Handyman Services in February of 2023. “It’s hard to hold onto them.”
Figuring out how to combine home services and hardware retailing is no easy feat. Even Home Depot and Lowe’s, with all their billions, haven’t cracked the code. But Ace Hardware is bullish on the concept.
In Orlando, Venhuizen took a more emotional tact to promote the Handyman division. He said that offering home services is a noble pursuit that supports local tradesmen and tradeswomen.
“Wouldn’t it be something if Ace to be the tip of the spear,” the CEO asked. “Can you imagine what this would do for our business model? Could you imagine what it would do for our neighbors? Could you imagine what this could do for our current and prospective employees? What buzz that would be?”