It is early January, and I am preparing for the new year ahead.  I was cleaning out some old emails and files and found the article linked below from Chain Store Age (a key retail trade magazine).  The story is about Ace Hardware, and their opening of 170 stores in 2022.  The article also mentions that they operate over 5,600 stores and enjoy sales in excess of $20 billion.  That all sounds interesting, but it got me thinking.  While Ace is a household name in retail hardware, how does it compare to Home Depot and Lowes.  So, I tracked down the following statistics:

Stores                   Annual Sales

Home Depot                      over 2,300          $157 billion

Lowes                                 over 2,000          $96 billion

Ace                                      over 5,600          $20 billion

Based on sales it is easy to dismiss Ace as a distant trailing player (sales 13% of HD and 21% of Lowes).  The category appears to be dominated by the two overwhelming players.  Still, as someone that has worked in and around the retail world for over 30 years, I know differently.  With more than twice the number of stores, Ace is touching twice as many communities.  Also with Ace opening 170 stores, note that Home Depot opened less than 30 stores, and Lowes had a net reduction of 5 stores.   Ace is not a chain; it is a cooperative.  In other words, every one of those 5,600 stores represents an entrepreneurial venture.  Every one of them is a local and small or medium size business.  Despite the amazing growth of two very well-run companies that dominate the category, the American entrepreneurial spirit thrives.  It also shows that retail is fundamentally a neighborhood or local business.   Finally, Ace has found the niche of being “your neighborhood store”.  The other guys have huge sales to contractors, with their stores heavily dependent on that “wholesale” business.  Ace is focused on … well me.  The bumbling do-it yourselfer.

Once again, more proof that retail is not dead, it is thriving.  Also, more proof of the health of local retail and local retailers.  Ace thank you for the reminder.