Puerto Rico’s hardware store market is about to add a new player with the arrival of Illinois-based Ace Hardware, which recently entered into an agreement to re-brand the operations of True Value de Puerto Rico and its 13 stores, News is my Business learned. The financial terms of the agreement were not available Monday.
Through the deal, Grupo Fermax — which through independent owners runs stores in Aguadilla, Bayamón, Caguas, Gurabo, Cidra (two stores), Hatillo, Lajas, Ponce, San Juan, Vega Baja and Yauco — will be taking on the Ace name and begin operating as such in coming weeks. The conversion should be finished by the end of the month.
“These excellent retailers are a welcome addition to the Ace family,” said Bob Moschorak, President of Ace Hardware International Holdings, Ltd. “The Puerto Rican professional and do-it-yourself market will see significant enhancements in product selection and will continue to receive the most helpful service possible from these local business owners.”
The chain’s 10 independent owners will remain at the helm of their stores, along with the estimated 300 combined employees.
“We pride ourselves on providing quality products and service to our customers while also building strong relationships with our communities. We feel Ace’s reputation for superior customer service will complement our stores’ existing culture,” said Jorge Pérez, a member of the Ferrmax group and owner of the Aguadilla store.
Essentially, the 13 hardware stores opted to leave the True Value cooperative to join Ace.
“Our decision to transition to Ace was strategic,” said Pérez. “Ace’s category management, combined with exclusive product offerings from domestic and international networks should provide for unparalleled product fulfillment to our customers.
The deal does not include the True Value hardware stores in Guaynabo’s San Patricio Plaza area and Old San Juan, which businessman Juan Bauzá owns separately from Grupo Fermax.
Ace is the largest retailer-owned cooperative of hardware stores, with some 4,600 locations in the 50 mainland United States and more than 60 countries. The operation generates annual retail sales of approximately $3 billion, according to the company’s website.
“Each store is independently owned and operated by local entrepreneurs who, many times, live in the communities they serve,” which seemingly makes it a perfect fit with the local True Value chain.
Ace currently operates 14 distribution centers in the U.S. and one in Shanghai, China. Ace employs approximately 4,500 corporate team members worldwide and has four regional offices, located in Raleigh, N.C; Atlanta, Ga.; Denver, Colo.; and Woodridge, Ill.
Calls made to stateside Ace Hardware executives went unanswered Monday.
Puerto Rico’s hardware store market has been hurting in recent years as a result of the economic downturn. In the last three years, the industry has lost about 20 percent of its sales, which as of Oct. 2011 totaled about $60 million, according to data gathered by the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute.
National Hardware and Home Depot are the largest players, with hundreds of smaller operations doing business throughout the island.