Woodstock Home & Hardware prides itself on the fact that you can buy animal feed and Brazilian cherry patio furniture. Its assortment is so wide that one of its mottos is: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” The home center keeps refreshing its other axioms, as evidenced by the ever-changing advice on the sign out front. A recent offering: “Avoid the crowds, the riots and the pepper spray. Shop local!”
Ironically, a large percentage of owner Larry Perry’s customers are not full-time residents of Woodstock, Vt.; more than 50% of homes in the community are vacation homes, according to the dealer. Yet 2011, measured by sales, was the second-best year ever for Woodstock Home & Hardware. “We were up in every category but one,” Perry said. “The second homeowners are starting to open their wallets. People are starting to spend again.”
Woodstock Home & Hardware began using Orgill as a secondary supplier in 2000 for locally popular items that Perry’s Ace warehouse didn’t carry. But over the past decade, his business with the Memphis distributor has grown. By 2005, Orgill was the source of 20% of his inventory, and now it’s about half, Perry estimated. (A third wholesaler, a small New Hampshire-based co-op named Standard Hardware, also supplies some items to the Vermont store.)
“Over the years, Orgill has become more and more important to us,” Perry said. “Their pricing on most stuff is competitive, and they carry some things that others don’t. It helps us round out our inventory. And [Orgill’s] inventory mix has expanded tremendously in the past few years.”
While assortment is important to Perry, having the ability to purchase items in small quantities is just as crucial, he said. “At 9,000 sq. ft., we’re a bit larger than the average Northeast [hardware] store,” he explained. His 60/40 split between DIYers and pros means serving a wide audience. Orgill’s liberal policy of breaking case on most items means that Perry can order a single plumbing elbow in different sizes, and offer three different SKUs of Titebond glue to his woodworking customers.
“We try to have a broad selection,” Perry explained. “It’s a space issue, not a dollar value issue.”
Perry likes getting two deliveries a week, one from Ace and one from Orgill. He also believes in sending his employees (his staff totals 15, including six buyers) to visit spring and fall markets, and four shows a year give him plenty of opportunity.
“[Orgill’s] shows have become as big as the [co-op] shows,” Perry said. “They’re doing pallet alley, and their drop-ship orders don’t have any adders (freight charges) on them.”
This past winter, when New England got clobbered by snow, Perry used both his wholesalers to stay on top of demand for shovels, ice melt, snow blowers and the usual defense mechanisms against Mother Nature’s wrath. He has nothing but praise for the distribution centers of both his main suppliers, who arranged special deliveries of merchandise to keep his shelves full and his cash registers humming. Even Standard Hardware came through. “They had roof rakes,” Perry said.