Sights and Sounds of a True Value Reunion
Chicago — During the True Value Fall Reuion here at McCormick Place, the hardware co-op unveiled a new approach to marketing, along with un update on progress and programs. And while doing so, it hamered on the “Value of Now” — a theme that reflected the importance of planning, investing and executing in a rapidly changing world.
Dealers who spoke to HBSDealer were generally upbeat and optimistic.
Paul Ramsey, general manager of Dauby’s True Value in Tell City, Ind., said he was particularly impressed with the new paint offering. “Paint is a big area of our store, and we average 200 gallons a week. Our paint area is about 10 years old, so this is a great time for us to sign up.”
From Blaine, Wash., Adam Akre of Pacific Building Center said business is booming back in the Pacific Northwest. “Everything is selling,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the economy, or what. But we’ve just been very busy.”
Washington, D.C., retailer John Spalding of True Value on 17th was recognized as one of several dealers who saw double-digit growth following a rennovation. Spalding said his reonovation was complicated a unique configuration of three adjacent buildings in an urban setting. “We took the elements that would fit our store,” he told HBSDealer. “True Value worked with us through a store designer, and he did an amazing job.”
During the Reunion’s General Session, True Value CEO John Hartmann encouraged dealers to recognize and respond to the powerful forces affecting retailers everywhere. “Make this the year for transformation,” he said. “Remodel your store. Add paint. Add [Customized True Blue assortments] to your mix. Make this a year for innovation. Modernize your marketing approach with our new marketing program and our support. Add True Value Rewards and the e-commerce ship to store program.
“All the pieces are in place,” he said. “There’s never been a better time to be an independent hardware retailer in the True Value Family.”
LBM Advantage and IBSA complete merger
The merger of IBSA, Inc. into LBM Advantage, Inc. has been completed as of Oct. 1 resulting in a buying group with 585 member companies operating 1,100 locations in 35 states.
Combined with IBSA (International Builders Supply Association) LBM Advantage has $6 billion in retail sales.
“It has been an honor to work with the staff and directors of IBSA to structure a merger that will be beneficial to our combined memberships; not just for today but for future generations,” Steve Sallah, president and CEO of LBM Advantage, said in a prepared statement.
IBSA’s Smithfield, N.C. location will be added to LBM Advantage’s current New Windsor, N.Y., Grand Rapids, Mich. and Monroe, La. member sales and service centers.
“LBM Advantage offers National Buying Power with products and program expertise unique to each region. This expansion will allow all members to enjoy even stronger service, further strengthening their position in the marketplace,” said LBM Advantage Chairman John Callahan, also president and CEO of Riverhead Building Supply based in Riverhead, N.Y.
“Building on the success of the 2016 merger of PAL Inc. and ENAP Inc., we are all excited for the increased benefits available to our dealers as we continue to grow,” said Tim Johnson, former president of IBSA and now vice president of southeast operations.
In 2015, the LBM Advantage buying group was formed after finalizing a merger between the former ENAP, Inc. and Progressive Affiliated Lumbermen, Inc. buying groups.
Do it Best members step up during Harvey
Do it Best members answered the call amid Hurricane Harvey’s wrath through southeast Texas, with store personnel, in some cases, risking their own lives to keep the operation going.
There were stories of extraordinary efforts. Bering’s, which has two locations in central Houston, has built a loyal customer base with its upscale and diverse offerings, including a robust business offering wedding registry. In the wake of Harvey and its flooding, the store seized an opportunity to help those in need by opening its wedding registry to everybody, enabling them to list supplies they needed to clean up and survive in the storm’s aftermath. This enabled people all over the country — and the world — to support relief efforts directly by purchasing items listed on the registry by local residents.
And then there was Eric Hall, manager of Jed’s Hardware in Houston, who hunkered down at his store for six days and five nights. And that was after he drove a flatbed truck three hours to a warehouse facility in Waco, Texas, and five and half hours back to the store during the storm to bring supplies, including generators and other emergency equipment he thought was appropriate for this unprecedented scenario.
After returning from Waco on Aug. 26, Hall briefly considered going home but thought he might not be able to make it back. His wife and two young children had already left the area to stay with relatives so Hall ultimately decided to ride out the storm and its aftermath in the store.
“I knew people in our area needed us to be open,” he said.
Jed’s was technically closed on Sunday, Aug. 27, but he helped those in need.
“The phones were ringing off the hook that Sunday,” Hall said. “In one instance a gentleman called and I could hear the fear in his voice. He said he really needed a water pump. I knew the guy was in need. I opened the store and let him in and he got the pump and some other items and went back home.”
On Monday, Aug. 28, and Tuesday, Aug. 29, Jed’s was the only store of any kind open within a 10-mile radius.
“We literally were the only store open for miles and miles,” he said.
One of his managers, Mike Wolff, had to wade through chest high water for about a mile to get to the store. Another manager, Mike Harris, traversed eight hours around flooded roadways to get to the store in what ordinarily would have been a 30-minute trip.
“I am fortunate I have guys like that who care about the store and understand what needs to be done,” Hall said. “On Monday we had a skeleton crew, but we were open. We knew the people needed what we had, and it did no good to be closed.”
Hall said the worst part about staying at the store aside from sleeping on a cot was not knowing what condition his house was in (it turned out to be fine). During his stay, he ate whatever the store had, including beef jerky, candy bars and cookies. There were times during the storm when he got worried, he admitted.
“After you see so much rain, with no end in sight, you wonder how bad it was going to be,” he said.
At one point he ventured out on his own. He drove about one mile north and came across flooded streets. He then headed three miles south and encountered the same thing.
“I found a 12-lane interstate completely flooded,” he said, and then headed back to the Do it Best store.
Hall said another reason he camped out at Jed’s was because the Brink’s trucks were not operating and there was in excess of $100,000 cash inside the store.
“There were some reports of looting, and I just didn’t want to risk it. I don’t consider anything I did extraordinary,” he said. “Anyone else who had the ability to do so would have done the same thing. To me it was all about giving people what they needed. I don’t know what my Do it Best bill was [during the storm’s aftermath], and I don’t care. My main motivation was to help people.”
There was plenty of help from other Do it Best personnel, including Jake Wasco, territory sales and business development manager, who was in constant communication with Jed’s and other stores in the flooded areas.
“I called Dan Starr, the president of Do it Best, and told him how impressed I was with Jake,” Hall said. “If I called or texted him, I would hear back from him within five minutes. He allowed me to plan my attack.”
Wasco was in contact with other members facilitating orders through Waco to arrange for emergency trucks with supplies to be delivered. Emergency trucks were delivered to Do it Best members most every day during the storm, despite the fact so many roads were flooded.
“The days we couldn’t come into Houston because the roads were impassible, we had a Do it Best member just outside Houston that used his parking lot as a staging ground. That cut down on our transport time,” Wasco said. “Other members worked together as well. We ended up shipping 40 to 50 semi loads full of product within those eight to nine days. When we ran low on product in Waco, we would pull from one of eight warehouses from as far away as Missouri. We were able to turn it around quickly. Everyone was so accessible. This has been a great team effort from our members, the corporate office and the warehouse in Waco. It’s been a full court press.”