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From Wal-Mart to Chas Mar: Chas Mar Home & Garden made itself at home in a vacant Wal-Mart store in Georgia

BY Lisa Girard

In 2005, Wal-Mart decided to close a store it had established in Eastman, Ga., in the 1980s and open a Wal-Mart Supercenter just over a mile away. For Charles Warren, opportunity had come knocking.

Warren, whose Chas Mar Home & Garden has been a fixture in this rural community for nearly 30 years, grabbed the chance to move from a 16,000-square-foot building downtown into the 40,000-square-foot vacated space and expand his business.

This was the fourth move for Warren, who—in January 1978 at the age of 18—had opened Farm & Garden Center, a small agricultural supply business that sold feed, seed, fertilizer and a smattering of hardware to the local farming community.

Warren slowly expanded the store over the years, adding lawn and garden in the early 1980s, and full nursery and hardware departments a few years later. He renamed the store Chas Mar Home & Garden in 1989, and added a second location—in McRae, Ga.—in 1990.

When he took over the Wal-Mart building in October 2005, Warren was able to shore up all departments—including plumbing, electrical, hardware, sporting goods, pet supplies and lawn and garden/outdoor living. In addition, Warren was able to expand his outdoor nursery from 2,500 square feet to 8,000 square feet.

With actual retail selling space doubled and inventory expanded a little more than that, Chas Mar’s sales have increased more than 82.4 percent since the new store opened. “We’ve been in four different locations in almost 30 years, and most people know us,” Warren said. “It’s still an agricultural community with about 20,000 people. Our business now caters to the middle and upper-middle income customer.”

Wal-Mart is the only large home improvement retailer to put down stakes in this community—the nearest Home Depot and Lowe’s stores are 40 to 50 miles away. However, Warren says local residents will trek to Savannah, Macon, Columbus and other big cities (none closer than 50 miles) to shop the big boxes. So he is trying to make sure he can cater to almost every home improvement need and plans to expand further into appliances, rental and LBM in the next 12 months.

Plus, Chas Mar is continually trying to improve on service, which Warren says is the big boxes’ Achilles heel. “We have ample parking, are open when people need us to be and provide personal service, especially in hardware, which is difficult to find at chain stores,” he said.

Chas Mar does about 60 percent of its buying from Orgill, the Memphis-based distributor. Warren started his association with Orgill in the early 1990s and says it has allowed him to be price competitive. Plus, he said, Orgill’s offerings well suits his needs, especially since the distributor boosted its farm and ranch assortment this year.

“We like the independence of being able to pick and choose programs,” Warren said. “We do use a lot of their programs, but we have the flexibility to fine tune them to our needs. Plus, we’re not looking to promote a brand name. We’re looking to promote Chas Mar.”

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Third-quarter earnings up at 3M

BY HBSDEALER Staff

St. Paul, Minn.-based 3M had record third-quarter sales and earnings, with earnings growth of 7.4 percent to $960 million compared with $894 million in the same period last year.

The company had net sales of $6.2 billion, up 5.8 percent from $5.86 billion last year.

George Buckley, 3M’s president, chairman and CEO, said the company saw gains across all its business segments. In consumer and office products, 3M saw sales grow 5.9 percent to $898 million compared with $848 million in the same period last year. The company’s safety and security products business saw sales rise 10.9 percent to $766 million from $691 million last year.

“The strength of the 3M portfolio was evident in the third quarter as we again generated record sales,” Buckley said. “Geographic diversity was also an important factor. We continue to accelerate investment in research and development, sales and marketing and in simplification of our supply chains.”

3M has business offices globally, with operations in other industries including industrial and transportation; health care; display and graphics; and electronics and communications.

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Weyerhaeuser to shutter three iLevel plants

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Federal Way, Wash.-based Weyerhaeuser will “indefinitely curtail” operations at three iLevel building products plants because of “slow customer demand.”

The curtailments include an oriented strand board (OSB) plant in Drayton Valley, Alberta; an OSB plant in Wawa, Ontario; and a laminated strand lumber plant in Deerwood, Minn. Work will halt at the plants before the end of the year, the company said.

“The decline in North American housing starts has reduced demand for wood products, requiring us to rationalize our supply of OSB and engineered wood,” said Steven Rogel, chairman, president and CEO of Weyerhaeuser. “We remain committed to these markets. This move enables our remaining plants to better execute our customer strategies.”

The Wawa and Drayton Valley plants are two of nine OSB mills in the Weyerhaeuser system. Wawa has an annual production capacity of 470 million square feet of OSB, while Drayton Valley has a capacity of 415 million square feet annually, the company said.

The Deerwood plant can produce six million cubic feet per year of engineered strand lumber and is one of three such plants owned by Weyerhaeuser.

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