Newsroom: Aco stores to close temporarily in phased brand switch

January 31, 2014

January 9, 2014 | By Michael Martinez

Michigan’s largest independent hardware chain will soon change names.

Farmington Hills-based Aco Home, Garden & Hardware plans to temporarily shutter its 52 locations across Michigan — starting in February — as it transitions to the Ace Hardware brand. The company is still evaluating which, if any, stores to close during the switch, and the move could result in “a few” job losses in the corporate office, CFO Mark VandenBerg said Wednesday.

“We’ve been struggling the last few years,” he said. “We needed to have a strategic direction change in how we operate the company. We felt the best option was to get back to that core hardware store that we kind of got away from in recent years. We felt the best way to do that was to align ourself with Ace.”
Half of the Aco stores started a liquidation sale on Wednesday, VandenBerg said. The Rochester Hills and Lake Orion locations will be the first to close and transition to the Ace brand in February, and the final stores will be re-opened by July.

Most stores should only be closed for about a week as they’re remodeled and stocked with Ace-branded merchandise. Once re-opened, they’ll be called Great Lakes Ace.

The move comes as the struggling company tries to compete with big-name retailers like Costco, Lowes, Wal-Mart, Meijer and others, said retail
analyst Ken Dalto.

“The move makes sense,” he said. “They must ally with a more powerful company in order to survive.”

In May, Aco announced it would close 14 stores in Michigan, which then-CEO Dick Snyder said was part of a plan to “improve and strengthen the company’s bottom line.”

Snyder stepped down in December, VandenBerg said.

Aco, which has about 850 employees, had recently moved away from its hardware business to offer food, furniture and clothing as part of its effort to broaden its appeal. Dalto said the chain’s commitment to refocus on hardware will help.

“People still need community hardware stores,” Dalto said. “Many do not want to do hardware shopping in large caverns with 15 other divisions of products. (Aco’s) not going to compete in anything else besides hardware.

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