Print preview: Creating a hardware empire in a post-Amazon world

BY Emily Micucci

William Aubuchon, IV

This is a preview of a longer story scheduled to run in WBJ's Jan. 22 print issue, diving into William Aubuchon, IV's efforts to build a sustainable hardware chain while facing the realities of the retail climate.
In August, Aubuchon Hardware announced it would cease distribution operations in Westminster, a decision that CEO William Aubuchon, IV admitted was a tough one.
Aubuchon said in an interview this month that the move not only displaced union workers, putting the 110-year-old retail hardware chain in the headlines; other employees, including family members, lost their jobs too, for a total of about 60 layoffs.
But rather than a mere cost-cutting measure, ending distribution in favor of moving distribution to independent distributors was a strategic play that Aubuchon hopes will help the company grow, with the potential to add hundreds of stores in the coming years.
“It was a major pivot in our history, in our tradition, but I think it’s a foundational one for us looking into the future,” said Aubuchon, president and CEO of the hardware.
After 90 years, a centralized distribution facility was almost as old as the fourth-generation company itself, but it had become a “bottleneck,” according to Aubuchon, the 40-year-old scion of the Aubuchon family who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Williams College and and an MBA from Babson College.
Working for the company in some capacity since he was a kid, and officially since 1991, Aubuchon has watched retail hardware evolve from an entirely in-store game to one that is increasingly choked out by big box stores and online retailers with the scale to deliver the products customers want, quickly.
But thanks to the nature of the business, there’s always been hope for Aubuchon Hardware to make it through the shakeout brought on by Amazon and others. He credits his great-grandfather, William Aubuchon, Sr., with founding a business with a crucial customer service component.
“It’s very important to have someone at the store that you can depend on, that’s knowledgeable and friendly,” Aubuchon said.
To read the rest of this article  including on Aubuchon's expansion plans and how he wants to create a different customer experience – wait for the Jan. 22 print issue of WBJ. To subscribe to the print edition, click here.