The Hardware Show 2017 sets new standards for industry’s main event

More than 2,000 people visiting from hardware stores and builders merchants attended the Hardware Show 2017 in March.

This year’s show attracted the largest attendance in its history with deals in excess of 120 million reportedly taking place over the course of the two days. Hosting more than 160 exhibitors, the Show focused on four key product areas; home, garden, build, and hardware/ DIY — categories mirroring the commercial layout and content of Ireland’s most-successful merchant stores.

Confidence regained

Speaking at the opening of the trade show, Annemarie Harte, CEO of Hardware Association Ireland (HAI) said the record attendance reflected a period of confidence and growth in the sector: “After a bruising recession, the impact of which is still being felt among many DIY retailers and builders merchants outside of Dublin, the sector is regaining confidence. Last year was a solid-performing year, with our monthly HAI Business Index showing a 10% increase in revenue among hardware/DIY retailers and builders merchants, compared to 2015.”
While retailers and merchants remain cautious, the HAI CEO noted, the first morning of the Hardware Show 2017 was marked by strong trading, with many exhibitors

What would Google do? Show visitors could find out at the Google Digital Garage.

experiencing brisk sales and huge interest. She commented: “A real area of interest this year is digital e-commerce sales, with a focus on practical demonstrations and business upskilling that will benefit hardware retailers and builders merchants. The addition of Google’s Garage and similar demonstration zones were really well received, and, as an association, we’re keen to help our members address skills and knowledge gaps around online business to help them compete with the bigger brands and international franchises who really dominate online.”

Innovation showcase

A defining objective of The Hardware Show is to showcase new product innovation to retailers and merchants. On the eve of the Show (Saturday, 4th March), the winners of the Hardware Show 2017 Innovations Awards were announced at the President’s Ball held at Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road, Dublin.

This year’s shortlist of new innovations was judged by a Dragons’ Den-style panel of industry experts and buyers, led by one of the original stars of Dragons’ Den, Bobby Kerr. His team of judges were: Peter O’Donovan, Purchasing Manager – Retail, Glanbia; Denis Cronin, Head Retail Buyer, Dairygold; Paddy Kingham, Managing Director, Daly Bros N/E Ltd; and Gary Craven, Regional Manager (ROI), Murdock Builders Merchants. HAI CEO, Annemarie Harte, explained: “These awards work to assist retailers and merchants in sourcing new and innovative products and services for their stores.”
The overall Innovation Award-winner was Irish-owned company, Solus, for its XCross Filament LED bulb.

The category winners were:

• Home: Solus for its XCross Filament LED bulb;
• Garden: Hygeia for its Greenforce Lawn Gold, an organic based lawn fertilizer;
• Build: Botament for its RD1 Universal product, a multifunctional reactive sealant; and
• Hardware/DIY: DS Supplies for its Trojan Combi-One floor profile.

The following companies were highly commended:

• Home: SME Sales for its Bemis Sta-Tite fitting system;
• Garden: Ames True Temper for its Dual Tine Leaf Rake.
• Build: Metabo for its Cordless Angle Grinder; and
• Hardware/DIY: Fleetwood Paints for its Prestige Matt Paint.

The Hardware Education Hub

HAI hosted an intensive training and education hub which ran all day through both days of the show. The extensive list of expert speakers who participated in the Hub was indicative of HAI’s commitment to providing its members with the finest levels of business support. With a dedicated enclosed space at the heart of the Show, visitors could drop in anytime in the course of both days to hear informed insights on a range of topics from human resources to construction product regulations.

With 26 years’ experience in HR, Tommy Smyth, a frequent contributor to The Hardware Journal, was the opening speaker at the Hub on both days. His talk focused on the essential elements that a builders merchant should take into consideration in setting up a comprehensive HR file.

One of Ireland’s top social media experts, the energetic Greg Fry, offered visitors a host of tips on how to develop an effective social media strategy.

Céline Cummins, a Show favourite, returned this year, with, as usual, a unique visual presentation that highlighted innovative merchandising displays and ideas from around the world and from different sectors, all with a view to energizing and adding extra visual appeal to store layouts. Her talk illustrated how relatively simple ideas can have tremendous impact on footfall and purchases. For instance, she showed how simply changing the backdrop to a display of handtools from white to black, immediately increased the display’s effectiveness and visual appeal.

Declan Flood, ‘the Credit Coach’, and a contributor to The Hardware Journal, gave an address that probably had everyone in attendance resolve to review their credit management practices as soon as they got back from the Show. Highlighting some home truths on credit management via 10 top tips, Declan reminded visitors to the Hub that the principles of credit management are simple but that doesn’t mean they are implemented. For instance, he asked, is the payment due date clear on all your invoices and statements?
Conor Taaffe, offered another straight-talking presentation, “Building Regulations Explained”, highlighting key facets of the Construction Product Regulations and the obligations they place on the shoulders of builders merchants.

The day was brought to a close by Jeff Sheridan, founder and Managing Director of Matrix Internet, a leading digital agency in Dublin. Free of the hype that too often accompanies digital strategy presentations, Jeff’s down-to-earth talk each day focused on practical advice about how to design a merchanting e-commerce platform that can convert viewers into paying customers.

Expanding the Show format

Metabo drill demonstration zone at Hardware Show
He knows the drill: the secrets of the Metabo power drill were revealed at the Demonstration Zone during the Show.

This year saw several significant new ideas introduced to the Show format to add real value for visitors. A Skills Zone, sponsored by Makita, displayed the expertise of some of Ireland’s most skilled young tradespeople in electrical work, plumbing, plastering and painting. Metac Training’s stand presented visitors with examples of best practice in the use of solid fuel and solid fuel appliances, enabling them to assist their customers in choosing the correct appliance for their specific requirements.
HAI, in association with Intact Software, provided Show visitors with the opportunity to have one-on-one, 30-minute consultations on how to use technology more effectively in managing cashflow, controlling stock and developing e-commerce capabilities.
A Demonstration Zone, sponsored by the Hultafors Group, provided a platform for manufacturers and suppliers to show an array of exciting products across the four signature categories: building materials; paint/décor; DIY/ hardware; and plumbing/ bathrooms.

The Show also gave visitors exclusive access to the Google Digital Garage throughout both days. At the Garage, visitors could avail of one-to-one digital clinics, tailored to all levels of digital literacy, and delivered directly by Google’s own experts. Reviewing the success of the two-day event, the HAI CEO Annemarie Harte commented: “The success of the Hardware Show 2017 has set a new benchmark for the biggest event in the industry’s calendar. Already, we’re looking at how we will ensure that the Hardware Show 2019 will match and exceed this year’s event in all its aspects.”