BlueLinx appoints Czanderna to board of directors
BlueLinx Holdings Inc., the Atlanta-based building products distributor, has appointed Karel Czanderna to the company’s board of directors effective Jan. 1, 2018.
Czanderna is president and CEO of Flexsteel Industries, Inc., the Dubuque, Iowa-based furniture manufacturer.
Prior to joining Flexsteel, Czanderna served as group president of building materials for Owens Corning. She also previously held various executive management positions with Whirlpool Corporation including vp of North America cooking products, vp and general manager of global KitchenAid and Jenn-Air businesses, and vp of global refrigeration and water products.
“Karel is an accomplished and experienced business leader. We believe that she will add tremendous value to the organization and we look forward to reaping the benefits of her unique perspective, insight, and counsel,” said Mitch Lewis, president and CEO of BlueLinx.
Ms. Czanderna currently sits on the boards of Flexsteel, American Home Furnishings Alliance, and American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation Inc.
In other news, Steve Mayer of Cerebrus Capital Management has resigned from board, effective Dec. 7, according to an SEC filing by BlueLinx. Mayer's resignation was not due to any disagreement with the company, BlueLinx said.
Distributors lean on new products
New products have often been described as the lifeblood of home improvement retailing. But it’s the behind-the-scenes sweat and elbow grease that generally determine the fate of a new item.
That’s one of the ideas advanced by a pair of hardware industry executives who spoke to HBSDealer about the path to new products. One of those executives, Memphis, Tenn.-based Orgill Senior VP of Purchasing Jeff Curler, said a process developed internally and called “Strategic Category Analysis” sets the stage for the introduction of new products into the Orgill warehouse. Under SCA. The process includes three review processes: productivity reviews, assortment reviews and line reviews.
“At the end of this process, implementation tools are used to develop communication to the Orgill Sales Force and the Orgill customers,” he said.
How often should retailers mix up their products? That depends, he says, but the general answer is: “as often as necessary.”
A new product pipeline is particularly important in categories where technology is front and center, or in areas of shifting codes and regulations. Examples of the first are home automation and LED lighting. Examples of the second include water heaters.
“The consumer expects their store of choice to be up to date on tech, fashion trends, and features,” Curler said. “If ‘last year’s model’ is priced the same with less relevance or features, the consumer is likely to move on to a purchasing option where their needs are better met,” Curler said.
The customer is regarded as a major driver of new product introductions. Customer demand is a powerful force in an industry that continually preaches customer-centricity. “Customer demand” was the leading vote getter in a recent HBSDealer poll that asked for the single biggest reason to introduce a product into a store’s merchandise mix.”
[Take the poll and see the results here.}
But customers often don’t know what new products are available. That’s where the vendors play an important role, according to Heath Ashenfelter, True Value Company VP and chief merchandising officer, who says the Chicago-based co-op has a number of ways to engage with its vendor community to bring new ideas to the fore.
True Value has stepped up its line-review program in recent years, and conducts about 50-to- 60 per year, the results of which appear in “Customized True Blue” assortments. The main goals of each line review are:
- Build assortments tailored to the local community
- Priced competitively at wholesale and retail
- Build a promotional calendar; and
- Eliminate excess inventory.
“One of the keys to any successful new product launch is signage, he said. “Getting new products into a high-traffic location, then very clearly promoting them with the right price.”
The process is bearing fruit. The co-op has sold 18,000 CTB assortments already for 2018. That’s more than the 17,000 sold for all of 2017. It’s also gaining traction with its new-item-endcap program, designed to push out new-to-market items every month. These are products that “we feel are the hottest and newest products in the market,” Ashenfelter said.
True Value hammers on targeted marketing
True Value Company continues to spread the word about how it intends to spread the word in 2018. The co-op is engaged in a marketing shift toward more local and more targeted advertising, as opposed to mass-market television commercials.
The Chicago-based co-op first floated the emphasis on targeted, digital approach to marketing during the co-op’s Chicago Fall Reunion in September. During the event, Senior VP of Marketing David Elliott described broadsheets, paid search, social media, e-mail, online advertising, point-of-purchase displays, direct mail and mobile push as marketing vehicles on the most-favored list.
This week, president and CEO John Hartmann took to social media to expound on the co-op’s new approach. In an article posted to Linkedin, the co-op’s Hartmann described a cultural shift across society that demands a marketing shift. More people are canceling their cable TV packages, and more people are engaging with their smart phones, he wrote.
“This is why, in 2018, we are shifting to a more targeted approach, one that focuses on reaching specific individuals within a given demographic, and tailoring the message to fit a particular community,” he wrote. “Rather than pump money into a nationwide TV advertising campaign we want to direct those funds to more strategic, local, digital ads on platforms like Hulu, YouTube TV and, of course, Google.”
Hartmann added that one result of the new approach is the elimination of a monthly ad fee paid by retailers. He also wrote that the co-op’s True Value Rewards program is being enhanced to provide coupons and deals for local stores.
The approach to marketing represents a major shift for the co-op that stands in contrast to its direction in 2015. Back then, it rolled out a series of television spots showcasing intimate life moments, shared between friends and family and centered around home improvement.
In Hartmann’s article this week, “Adjusting to the new reality of advertising,” he concluded on a positive note: “I have no doubt that in 2018 alone, we will begin to see the results of this forward thinking, proactive approach to marketing.”