Growing up with Orgill

Relationship skips back two generations for Arkansas dealer

Billy Plyler remembers when Orgill was a one-warehouse operation that sold furniture and flooring as well as hardware, plumbing and electrical. “I was little when my daddy used to buy from them,” recalled Plyler, whose father founded John Plyler Home Center in Glenwood, Ark., shortly after World War II. Located 97 miles from Little Rock, Plyler Home Center splits its business 60/40 between DIY and pro customers in this town of approximately 1,700 residents.

Both companies have grown considerably since then: Orgill has expanded into a number of product categories (but dropped furniture and floor covering) and operates five distribution centers across the country; and Plyler Home Center has acquired local businesses or incorporated buildings to form a 20,000-sq.-ft. showroom, hardware store, lumberyard and warehouse. Billy and his brother Johnny run the operation, with Billy’s wife Diane working as the bookkeeper and daughter Brandie in charge of accounts receivable, circulars and appliances.

Dealers who have decades-long affiliations with distributors and co-ops can often become disgruntled; they complain about an erosion in quality or they don’t approve of other changes they’ve seen. This is clearly not the case with Plyler, who applauds — and participates in — many of the programs Orgill has added over the years. He pays close attention to the “Priced Right Every Day” matrix and adjusts his prices accordingly. Most importantly, Orgill helps him keep a close eye on the prices at Home Depot and Walmart, his closest competitors.

“If we find something that’s not priced right, [Orgill] will send somebody out there to check it out and adjust it,” Plyler said. His favorite program, however, seems to be the Memphis-based distributor’s circulars. The Plylers like the “build your own” template, which gives them the freedom to choose as many of Orgill’s promotional items as they want.

“Sometimes we’ll change a few items, and sometimes we’ll change every item,” Plyler said. The store has also used the circular template for special events of its own, such as an anniversary sale.

These days, with new construction at a virtual standstill in his area, John Plyler Home Center uses its circulars to promote the kind of projects its customers are tackling: new decks, bathroom upgrades and, above all else, repainting. “We’re seeing a lot of little projects,” Plyler said. “Like the little girl who has grown from a 6-year-old to a 16-year-old, and she wants her bedroom redone. That’s 4 gallons of paint and the trim to go with it.”

Among single stores that buy from Orgill, John Plyler Home Center is the distributor’s largest seller of Valspar paint. Between Lumbermens Merchandising Corp. (LMC) and Orgill, Plyler supplies his entire home center. One exception is major appliances, which come from another distributor.

It’s the appliance circulars that underscore the attributes in Orgill’s program. “They come premade,” explained Brandie Killian, who puts together all the advertising inserts. It doesn’t matter what the home center typically carries; dealers must also pay to use photos of the products.

In comparison, any item sold at an Orgill show lends its photo for free in the circulars. And preparing a circular does not have to involve bulked-up orders unless the dealer wants to promote a particular set of products. “We can make them accordingly to what we have in the store,” Killian said. 

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