U.S. Lumber lifted by private equity money
Atlanta-based building products distributor U.S. Lumber will be infused with private equity money as part of a plan to grow its product mix and geographic footprint.
Madison Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm, agreed to make a “strategic growth investment” in U.S. Lumber, a two-step distributor in the eastern U.S. The existing management team of U.S. Lumber will remain in place. The dollar amount of the investment was not released.
“We are thrilled to be working with MDP,” said U.S. Lumber president and CEO Jeff McLendon. “The resources and expertise they bring to our relationship will accelerate our opportunity for product and geographic growth. Coupling our combined resources with a shared set of values between our two organizations should enhance our supplier relationships and customer offerings while also advancing our growth plans.”
U.S. Lumber is a company with over $500 million in revenue. It was formed by the merger in 1998 of Atlantic Trading Company and Bestwood Forest Products. The company serves more than 4,000 pro dealer and retail customers in 23 U.S. states from distribution centers in Atlanta; Greenville, S.C.; Raleigh, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; central Florida, Mobile, Ala.; Baltimore and Boston.
Of the company’s nine locations, five were successfully green-fielded, said founder and executive chairman Lawrence Newton.
Newton added: “With MDP on board, we now have an even greater opportunity to serve our suppliers and customers with additional geographical expansion through acquisition.”
House-Hasson names an executive VP
House-Hasson Hardware has promoted Steve Henry to the role of executive VP.
Henry has been senior VP and a director of the company since March 2016. Prior to this role, he was serving as credit manager since July 2010.
“Steve has proven himself to be a gifted administrator and talented executive,” said president Don Hasson. “As executive vice president, he will be primarily responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company, at which I believe he’ll do an excellent job."
“This will give me more time to focus on strategic aspects of our business and its future and to be even more in touch with our dealers,” Hasson added.
“I’m deeply grateful for Don Hasson’s confidence in me and look forward to my new responsibilities with high enthusiasm and exceptional confidence in House-Hasson’s future,” Henry said. “This is a highly successful 110-year-old company that has navigated successfully over the years through the ups and downs of the national economy and the tremendous changes in the hardware store and lumberyard businesses."
“Under Don’s leadership our company will continue to prosper and I’m privileged to be working with such a terrific team of employees and dealers,” Henry said.
Here’s what’s cooking in grills
Atlanta — Here's one way to sell more grills: Put one in the backyard of your sales force.
According to a "Sell More Grills" session during the Ace Hardware Spring Convention and Exhibits, grill salesmen are more effective when they own their own.
"Passionate, educated associates sell more products," said Craig Hansen, senior merchant for barbecue. "Owners of these types of grills sell more grills. It's important to create those barbecue ambassadors in your store."
Demonstration days also extremely effecting sales tools. It's typical for a successful event to generate sales measured in the tens of thousands of dollars. And stores that execute grill demonstrations have 23% higher grill sales than those that don't.
Demos can be extravagant or simple. "You can have a grill that's just sitting there smoking — it could be crackers. Or you can cook and serve frozen pizza." (You don't want to use a gourmet pizza, he said, because customers will suspect the involvement of a gourmet chef.)
Bigger events include cooking lessons for specific brands, or "Grill Your Ace Off," parking lot parties, he said.
It's important to apply best practices in the grill category, partly because of the strong competition, and partly because of a high level of market saturation. Of the nation's more than 119 million households, a whopping 75% already own a grill. According to Hansen, people generally buy gas grills when the one they already own quits working.
The good news, he says, is that there is major growth in specialty sales. "If you're a strong Weber dealer and think your doing great with Weber, you should still investigate the specialty grills because there is real opportunity in that business," he said.
Weber, Traeger and Big Green Egg — the three big grill brands in the Ace family — have significant add-on sales opportunities. And owners of these brands make great customers in general. For instance, Hansen said a Traeger customer is in the top 5% of all Ace customers. They shop three times more than the average customer, and spend four times more than the average customer.
A well-trained in-store grill ambassador will ask the customer questions and guide the customer accordingly, says Jason Morse, from 5280 Culinary and BBQ Provisions, a grilling expert who regularly works with the Rocky Mountain Ace Dealers group to promote the category.
It's important to know how the customer will use the grill, and helpful to know how much time they expect to spend preparing meals, he said.
Above all, a true grill ambassador will sell the experience of grilling.
"It's about having fun," Morse said. "It's about showing the customers we're more than a big box chain. And people want to come and see us because we're the experts."