Ace has powerful brand recognition in the marketplace, equity that comes from being in business for more than eight decades, and owns "helpful" service in consumers' minds. The strength of the Ace name is driven by an integrated approach to promoting the brand, raising top-of-mind awareness, increasing footsteps, enhancing consumer loyalty and attracting new shoppers to Ace.
Ace is The Helpful Place®, and the sharp focus on customer service is paying off. In the first-ever "Real People Ratings Best of 2005" report, Ace was ranked number one in the home improvement store customer service category, surpassing all of the "big boxes" and other independents in the industry. To gather the data, quarterly online opinion polls were sent to its pool of mystery shoppers. The survey was conducted in May, August and December 2005, generating a total of more than 24,000 responses.
The national advertising events continue to be an important part of Ace's brand-building strategy, driving traffic at key times of the year. The 2005 February Bag Sale increased participating retailers' sales by 19 percent over the 2004 sale. The Memorial Day and the Helpful Hardware Days Sale, held in May and September respectively, also contributed to a steady sales stream. The One Day Sale the day after Thanksgiving resulted in one of Ace's strongest national events since the promotion began in 2001. Overall, retail sales for the One Day Sale increased 9.5 percent above the results of the 2004 sale for those retailers who fully participated in the promotion.
Since the first One Day Sale in 2001, this event has increased retail sales cumulatively by 151 percent. These results prove the power of retailers banding together to support a promotion that is heavily advertised in all key mediums: television, radio, circulars and one-to-one with Ace's preferred customer program, Helpful Hardware ClubŪ (HHC). HHC has surpassed 10 million customers and offers participating retailers a number of customized promotions to send to their best customers. From Rewards mailings to a holiday mailer and the Ace Brand mailer, both of which give customers $5 off a $15 purchase, more than 2,200 Ace retailers are harnessing the power of communicating with their best customers and driving enhanced loyalty.
By mining consumer data through Helpful Hardware Club, Ace is able to make better decisions in terms of selecting promotional product, target marketing and driving sales. And with more than 2,400 stores submitting retail data through the Ace Data Warehouse, Ace is able to make real-time decisions based on actual data and retail facts.
With the Internet now being the number one source consumers turn to for information, Ace continues to increase its focus on building the brand in the online arena through content enhancements to acehardware.com. Customers use the site first and foremost for product research and project advice, as well as for company information and to readily identify their local Ace Hardware store. In the past year, more than 18 million visitors came to the site, an increase of 77 percent from the previous year.
Throughout 2005, Ace made billions of consumer impressions with its branding efforts. A total of 610 million came from circulars alone... nearly 8 billion from broadcast (television and radio) mediums... 325 million from news stories on Ace in magazines, newspapers, on television and on radio... and 36 million from Helpful Hardware Club. These strong numbers will be further enhanced in 2006, thanks to some new and innovative brand-building approaches that will continue to break through, increase top-of-mind awareness and further position in the consumers' mind that Ace is The Helpful Place... a convenient, neighborhood destination that provides comprehensive product and project advice and saves customers time.