Valu Home Centers is taking a new look at its business in the face of difficult economic conditions.
The family-owned, local home improvement chain will close three stores in Batavia, Fredonia and Lakewood. All affected workers will be offered positions at other Valu stores.
The closures are part of an effort to focus on stronger locations and to potentially add others, while bolstering Valu’s online presence, the company said.
“For Valu, it’s all about growth. We want to grow in new stores and new markets and also with our e-commerce site,” said Doug Wasiura, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce. “We look at some of these stores and, unfortunately, there’s just so much competition in some pretty small neighborhoods that the stores just don’t make sense for us anymore.”
The Batavia, Fredonia and Lakewood stores were not doing well, and trimming them allows the company to focus its resources on stronger locations. Closing the low-volume, underperforming stores reduces a drag on the company as it faces increasingly difficult headwinds coming out of the pandemic and with the economy slowing.
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Valu closed a store in Geneva last year, and stores in Olean, Painted Post and Warren, Pa., before that. It opened a store in Bath earlier this year and is looking for suitable places to open more locations – places that company officials believe can support a Valu store.
“Opening a store in Bath, New York this year really kind of opened our eyes to that incredible community,” Wasiura said. “There’s a lot of growth that we can have in that community, and how do we just refocus our efforts? That’s really what this is all about.”
Consumer habits have been changing for years. Internet shopping is at an all-time high and competition in the home improvement sector is fierce. Valu is no longer competing against other mom-and-pop chains, but national chains such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. In addition, it is competing against companies such as Wayfair and Target.
Valu built many of its stores in communities before the big boxes arrived.
“Batavia is a great example. There’s a big box store down the street from us and in a small community where there’s only a certain amount of people, it’s tough to compete against some of those bigger box stores,” Wasiura said. ” I think brick and mortar still works. We still have 33 stores that are very successful. But unfortunately, there are some communities where bigger box competition has kind of pushed us out.”
Interest rates are up, as is inflation. And everything has been worsened by the pandemic. That includes supply chain issues, a labor shortage and higher labor costs.
Valu was founded in 1968. Its business model focuses on well-stocked, medium-sized stores with competitive pricing and excellent customer service.
As a fixture in Western New York, closing stores is not easy for its owners and executives, they said.
“Valu obviously does a lot for customers and local organizations in the community with Habitat for Humanity and Salvation Army and just all these things over the years. You’re connected to that community and you’re a part of it,” Wasiura said.
After the closures, Valu will have 33 locations in Western and Central New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania.