The entrepreneurship of Ace members knows no limits - and isn't bounded by geographic lines. Ace's international retailers bring Ace's "helpful" message to every corner of the world as they expand the Ace brand into markets across the globe. Consumers in more than 70 countries are familiar with the Ace name; from the Middle East to the United Kingdom and from Indonesia to Mexico, customers are able to find the high-quality products they need with the help of Ace associates offering truly "world-class" customer service.
By leveraging the power of Ace's brand, combined with the effectiveness of the company's global distribution network, Ace's international retailers demonstrated their capacity for success through increased profits. In 2005, international retailers enjoyed another record year. Their wholesale purchases increased nearly 12 percent over 2004, as did bottom line profits.
And growth among this group isn't limited to profits - Ace continues to expand its network of international retailers year after year. With new stores opening around the world in 2005, Ace's international business now includes more than 140 accounts on six continents, which is helping to solidify Ace as one of the most recognized brands in the world.
This growth was spurred, in part, by the agreements signed with several established international retail chains in 2005. In June, the 200 member stores which comprise Mica South Africa-Super Group began receiving hardware and home improvement products through Ace's distribution network. In addition to tapping new customers in the South African market, Ace is also able to utilize its partnership with this group to discover new and improved ways to procure, warehouse and distribute products, further strengthening both companies.
But the attraction of the Ace brand doesn't just appeal to new members - seasoned, international retailers also appreciate the triedand- true selling power of Ace, demonstrated by the renewal of the company's longstanding relationship with established international chains. In 2005, Ace signed a 10-year extension to its business agreement with Ace Israel and will continue supplying the 25 hardware stores in the retailer's chain with Ace products. Ace Israel has been able to leverage the Ace brand to become the top-ofmind destination for its customers. In Israel, Ace continues to earn the highest scores on awareness surveys conducted in this country, often topping 55 percent.
Brand power certainly motivates international retailers to join the Ace family, but the quality of our products also holds high appeal throughout the world. In England, for example, Ace Paint caught the attention of Lawsons, an 85-year-old lumber and building materials chain. In 2005, an agreement was signed to convert Lawsons' paint departments to Ace's Color Your Life® merchandising format, representing the first time that Ace Paint will be available to customers in England.
Ace also continues to research and implement methods which improve our international retailers' ability to bring new products to market. In Mexico, where many product manufacturers reside, Ace has developed a program to enhance retailers' ability to buy local product, with billing and payment conducted in the local currency. This allows Mexican retailers to source their product and local name brands via Ace Hardware.