At 84 Lumber, Billy Ball’s Game Plan
In his first interview with HBSDealer, new VP store operations Billy Ball showed an ability to say all the right things — including offering props to president Maggie Hardy Magerko (“a great individual to work for,” he said).
Hardy Magerko returned the favor in a press release: “Billy has been a tremendous leader in our Southeast Division, is highly experienced and has the respect of everyone in the company.”
The new VP store operations for 84 Lumber and 25-year company veteran says he eschews the cookie-cutter approach to stores. He embraces input from the field. And he sees the best growth opportunities in the markets where the company already has a presence.
“It always starts with good people,” Ball said. “And you can take it a step farther, and it has to be a good team — a good team and working under a good structure.”
With 249 stores, plus plants, door shops and other units, Eighty Four, Pennsylvania-based 84 Lumber is riding momentum — three consecutive years of sales and profit growth, according to the privately held company.
First up for Ball, he said, is to visit as many stores he can. “We take a market-specific approach to business,” he said. “We go in and determine what is the best way to go to market, and we treat each market differently.”
Going once, going twice and coming to NHS
Organizers of the National Hardware Show are planning the biggest, permanent, floating trade-show auction to hit the hardware industry.
The three-day Outdoor Supply Auction program during the May 5-7 event in Las Vegas will feature top brands and “trusted National Hardware Show exhibitors,” according to Rich Russo, industry VP for the NHS.
The new program is a two-year-in-the-making partnership between the NHS and RNO Exhibitions, and the first-of-its-kind anywhere trade show event, said RNO’s Vince Webb.
Dealers get the excitement of a no-minimum, no-reserve auction — that means the low bidder wins, period. For exhibitors, a major incentive to participate is the lead generation that the digital auction provides.
“We think of it as Cars.com meets eBay,” Webb told HBSDealer.
Registered attendees will bid on merchandise organized by lot on the show floor — pallet or bulk quantities of everything from outdoor living furniture to barbecues to tools. There’s even an opportunity for booth sales, Webb said.
To participate, show attendees need only sign up, download the NHS mobile app and provide a credit card.
The auction “enables our brand to continue to meet the industry’s need for platforms to grow their business,” Russo said.
For Lumber Liquidators, a ‘60 Minutes’ Moment
Lumber Liquidators executives were braced for the "60 Minutes" episode. They had warned investors before the March 1 airing that an “unfavorable light” was going to shine on their business with regard to sourcing and product quality.
How bad was the impact? The company’s shares tumbled on March 2, down more than 25%, with more bleeding the following day.
The segment highlighted the retailer’s alleged practice of using Chinese-manufactured laminate flooring containing high levels of formaldehyde, violating United States health and safety codes. Undercover reporters were shown talking to factory managers who bluntly said certain flooring products did not meet U.S. regulations.
Lumber Liquidators released a defiant statement defending its practices. “These attacks are driven by a small group of short-selling investors who are working together for the sole purpose of making money by lowering our stock price,” the statement reads in part.
Indeed, the episode relied heavily on the comments of a short seller. But it also included a gotcha moment with Anderson Cooper showing to Lumber Liquidator chairman Tom Sullivan a video from inside a Chinese mill. The segment ended on the following exchange:
Cooper: “It certainly calls into question not just these mills, but it calls into question your oversight of these mills.”
Sullivan: “It could, yes.”