FINANCE

Ace Hardware acquires e-commerce startup

BY Ken Clark

Ace Hardware Corp. has solidified its relationship with The Grommet.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based hardware co-op announced the acquisition of new-product platform The Grommet. The online website will continue to find and develop products, and Ace will continue its efforts to make the products available to its dealers.

Financial terms of the deal were not revealed

Ace Hardware and The Grommet first began working together in 2016 as part of a collaboration to bring new, unique and otherwise undiscovered products from independent “makers” – creative, independent entrepreneurs – into select Ace stores.

“We both stand as strong advocates for the underdog,” said Ace Hardware CEO John Venhuizen. “From the very beginning we have appreciated our alignment in support for and advancement of the independent maker. Under Ace’s ownership, I believe The Grommet can offer our customers more of that which fuels global economies and makes America special – the unbridled creativity of the local entrepreneur.”

The Grommet operates an e-commerce website that markets and sells new and innovative products. Among its success stories are products such as FitBit, IdeaPaint, OtterBox, SimpliSafe and SodaStream. So far, The Grommet has launched more than 2,500 innovative consumer products and amassed a community of more than three million early adopters and supporters, the company said.

Ace Hardware is now the majority, controlling owner of The Grommet. However, both of the company’s original founders, Joanne Domeniconi and Jules Pieri, and their employees, will continue to have some equity ownership of the company. Ace intends to provide considerable autonomy to The Grommet and has no plans to change the company’s strategic direction.

“Ace’s expansive supply chain and network of 5,034 stores coupled with The Grommet’s innovative product discovery platform combine to give dreamers, inventors, innovators and Makers a sustainable, high quality path to meaningful growth, without having to bow down to the altar of Amazon,” Venhuizen said.

Retail analytics from Ace Hardware stores point to the value in aligning both physical stores with a digital discovery platform. Current customers of The Grommet visit Ace over 505 more times than the average Ace Rewards customer and spend 2.8 times as much, the co-op said.

“The Grommet has often been called a &lsquogeneral store for innovation,’ and Ace is a trusted destination for the goods and services homeowners need to take care of their homes. That is a powerful combination,” said Jules Pieri, co-founder and CEO of The Grommet.

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News

New lease on life for Las Olas Boulevard

BY Al Urbanski

It was an urban retail real estate broker’s dream: five blocks of Main Street storefront — almost 250,000 sq. ft. of it — sandwiched between beachfront and commercial business district. That’s what the owners of most of five contiguous blocks on Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Boulevard plopped on the plate of Michael Comras.

“The exciting part is that we have about 100,000 square feet available to us for remerchandising. We don’t have to go and create the opportunities. It’s there for us,” said Comras, CEO of The Comras Companies of Florida. “We can see a new type of customer coming into the area, and we will be appealing to that younger profile.”

The three owners of 90% of those five blocks — Barron Real Estate, Las Olas Company, and Hudson Capital Group — want to migrate the popular shopping street away from catering to a Baby Boomer retiree clientele and position it more for Gen-X and Millennial newcomers who work and, increasingly, live in the area. Some 8,000 residential units have sprung up nearby, and an additional 7,000 units are in various different stages of construction.

Established Las Olas retailers like Tommy Bahama and Sunglass Hut are now being joined by neighbors such as Bluemercury and Alex and Ani due to Comras’ leasing efforts.

“The online retailers are something we’re really focused on also restaurants and lifestyle-oriented tenants like the Lululemons, Athleisures, and Sweaty Bettys,” said Comras, who worked on the retail leasing of Miami’s trendy Lincoln Road Mall. The remaking of that property lifted retail rents from what was around $30 to near $300, though Comras admits that Las Olas won’t hit those heights.

“Lincoln Road was different,” he said, “but we’re suggesting we could do something special on Las Olas Boulevard when we reach critical mass.”


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ECOMMERCE

Report: Online giant has its eye on some French supermarkets

BY CSA STAFF

Amazon is exploring its next grocery opportunity — but not in the United States.

The online giant is looking for physical store locations in France, especially Paris. French newspaper Le Monde, which first broke the story, said Amazon has approached various French supermarket operators — including Groupe Casino, Intermarche and Systeme U — about setting up distribution deals or making an acquisition in the country, according to CNBC.

Bidding on a supermarket operator is not new territory for the e-retailer, which purchased Whole Foods Market in August for $13.7 billion. Since Amazon’s is only eyeing 15 locations this time around, some sources are speculating that the units could be a way to expand the company's Amazon Go grab-and-go concept. The cashless convenience store is currently in a private beta test with only Amazon employees and located in Seattle.

To read more, click here.

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