News

See how they grow

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The 2011 Home Channel News Top 200 Pro Dealer Scoreboard has been published — the full list will be available on homechannelnews.com.


The Top 200 lumberyard companies in the nation, ranked by sales, together showed a 1.38% increase in 2010, compared with 2009. That’s the first year-over-year growth spurt for the HCN Pro Dealer Scoreboard since the 2007 list of Top 350 pro dealers was published. 


Growth is good. 


But how did it happen? How do companies grow when all around them their markets are stalled or declining? 


Home Channel News editors and reporters have been digging into this question ever since the economy began limping to wherever it is going. 


Let us count the ways:


1) Through acquisition. 


There are deals available. Companies on the growth path have told us that the down times are the right times to get stronger — through acquisition, if possible — at the expense of their competitors.


2) Through market share expansion. 


There’s an old saying that retail is a punch-in-the-mouth business. In other words, if you want market share, you have to take it from somebody. For some companies, market share has come simply as weaker players left the market. But the high-performance players went out and earned it.


3) Through systems and technology investment. 


Taking advantage of POS data has led to better visibility and better business decisions for companies, such as Bartlett’s Lumber & Hardware. Smart companies are usually fast companies. And the companies that move the fastest are usually the companies that grow the fastest. 


4) Through empowered decision-making at the point of customer contact. 


Time and again, successful retail companies — starting with Home Depot’s inverted pyramid and working down the list — point to their structure as their strength. The idea that employees should take ownership of their responsibilities — as is the case with TW Perry — is one of the most prevalent management ideas espoused by growth-oriented companies. 


5) Through change. 


Just because it worked yesterday, doesn’t mean it will work tomorrow. Growth companies seem to understand this maxim. 


6) Through conservative management. 


This may sound like an oxymoron, but growth companies often explain that their conservative approach to business during the boom years has put them in a position for growth today. High-performance companies continue to watch their spending very closely.


7) Through aggressive customer service. 


Enough said. 


8) Through in-store merchandising. 


Bolder endcaps, smarter adjacencies and sophisticated pricing are par for the course for growth companies. 


9) Through scientific analysis. 


Measure. Improve. Repeat. That’s how Orgill’s Ron Beal explains strong growth at Orgill.


10) Through hard work. 


Getting out in the community, building relationships, and aggressively courting new business and new customers. 


“Work hard and work smart,” said Cally Fromme, of Zarsky Lumber, summing up the keys to success at the Victoria, Texas-based company, our July issue cover story.


The profiles of growth in our July issue might or might not be able to guide a business to growth. But they most certainly will show that growth is attainable.


— Ken Clark

[email protected]

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D.C. Hotline: Swipe-fee reform avoids delay

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Retail associations are celebrating the defeat of a measure that would have delayed new rules governing “swipe fees” for certain card transactions at the retail point of sale.


The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association was among those applauding the defeat of a proposal by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).


“Out-of-control swipe fees on transactions have been yet another cost burden on building material dealers who are struggling to remain afloat in this housing recession,” said Scott Lynch, NLBMDA executive VP. “We are pleased that the Senate wisely chose not to further delay this much-needed relief.”


The amendment, which would have delayed new swipe-fee rules by 12 months, was defeated by a vote of 54-45, with a 60-vote super majority needed for passage.


As it stands, more retailer-friendly swipe-fee rules will go into effect July 21. The Federal Reserve Board plans to limit fees to 2% of the transaction for small banks and financial institutions, and a flat 12-cent cap for the largest banks. The NLBMDA said it supports the new rules, describing them “as an important move to reign in costs for building material dealers and other retailers.”

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“Can you repeat the questions?”

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The question-and-answer session is often the most entertaining segment of a shareholders meeting. Case in point, Home Depot’s June 2 meeting brought a half hour of free-wheeling comments from the floor. Below are just some of the questions (abbreviated and paraphrased) and actual excerpts from chairman and CEO Frank Blake’s always-polite responses. 


Question: Why do you continue to sell glue traps?


Frank Blake: “One of the things we try to do is provide our customers with a number of different alternatives.” 


Question: Thank you for selling glue traps. Also, employees should be paid more. What do you say? 


Blake: “We are one of the few — very, very few — retailers in the country that has both maintained merit increases for our hourly associates, maintained 401K matches and actually increased bonuses to our hourly associates during this tough recession.”


Question: Why don’t you hire more senior citizens as greeters?


Blake: “Thank you very much.” 


Question: What have you done to trace the sourcing of minerals from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo?


Blake: “I don’t know, but I will have somebody get back in touch with you.”



Question: Why don’t you use your political clout to stabilize the housing market?


Blake: “Thank you very much for those comments.”

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