Even with one less week in the calendar year, Ace Hardware Corp. ran up its wholesale sales to a record $5.0 billion. Along the way, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based co-op delivered a pre-tax return on equity of 33%.
“I'm honored to report the third consecutive year of record financial performance for the company," said John Venhuizen, president and CEO.
For the fourth quarter (also containing one less week than the prior year), total revenues were $1.2 billion, up 0.2% from the year-ago period. Net income was $12.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2015 compared with $12.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2014.
For the year, Ace’s $5.0 billion in revenue was up 7.3% over fiscal 2014. Net income was $156.2 million for the year, up 10.5% from fiscal 2014.
"As the result of the strong 4.6% growth in same-store-sales, 158 new domestic stores and the disciplined execution of the entire Ace enterprise, we are delighted to deliver a record $146 million in patronage dividends," said Venhuizen. "This 7.8% increase in patronage dividends, coupled with the $51 million customers receive in up front 'dividends' through reduced handling charges on price sensitive products, brings total 2015 shareholder return to $197 million."
Factoring out the missing week, the 3,000 or so Ace retailers that share daily retail sales data saw increased customer count and average transaction size driving a 4.6% same-store-sales increase for the year. Same-store-sales at these stores were up 3.0% for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015.
Ace added 158 new domestic stores in fiscal 2015 and canceled 98 stores. This brought the company’s total domestic store count to 4,311 at the end of fiscal 2015, an increase of 60 stores from the end of fiscal 2014.
Increases were noted across all departments with outdoor living, electrical and lawn and garden showing the largest gains, the company said.
Retail revenues from Ace Retail Holdings -- essentially the Westlake Ace chain -- were $251.7 million during fiscal 2015, an increase of 7.7%. Average ticket price increased 3.3% and customer count increased 1.3% compared with fiscal 2014, leading to a same-store-sales increase of 4.6%. The largest increases for ARH were in lawn and garden, consumables and electrical.
Ace Hardware recorded $3.7 million of warehouse facility closure costs in fiscal 2015 as a result of ARH vacating its leased warehouse facility and the settlement of a withdrawal liability for the multi-employer pension fund that covered former union employees at the closed Retail Support Center in Toledo, Ohio.