Do it Best talks LBM in Indy

Indianapolis -- The co-op that promotes itself as the “total solution” for the independent lumber and building material retailer, Do it Best Corp. emphasized its one-two punch of  “aggressive” and “responsive” support of its members during its biannual LBM Industry Update.

Mike Ter Molen, director of LBM operations for Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Do it Best Corp., explained the co-op intends to take an aggressive approach to bring members the best vendor programs, and also to be responsive to their operating needs. He hammered on the idea of strength in numbers and asked members to be open to new ideas and new suppliers, and to provide candid feedback – of which there is usually an abundance in the LBM industry.

“We respect your independence,” Ter Molen explained. “You have a unique market, and a unique way of doing business. It’s OK that everybody is a little bit different, but we are stronger together, and that’s why you’re part of this co-op.”

The LBM Industry Update, delivered by a panel of Do it Best LBM managers, touched on all the big challenges of the day, including labor, consolidation weather, floods and tariffs. One piece of advice that rose to the top was this: Consider installed sales as a means to address the labor shortage, even though it might not be for everyone.

“There is a blurry line between where you're providing a service, but then encroaching on your customer,” Ter Molen said. “It’s a gray area, but what I would encourage you to do is remain open to the idea.” He suggested that retailers prepare a plan for how to introduce such a program, even if they never pull the trigger.

The benefits to installed sales programs can be significant in a number of ways, the panel suggested. “If you’re part of the solution and helping the end users – trusses, wall panels, hanging doors – you’re just more valuable to your market,” said Josh Ratcliff, division manager for lumber and reload operations.

The panel also recommended concentrating purchases through the co-op, with particular emphasis on treated lumber.

Jean Fahy

Jean Fahy, division manager of building materials pointed to the importance of training, and the power of “members talking to other members.” She suggested members take advantage of peer-focused groups, including a  truss and panel group to be introduced at the Do it Best Spring market in February.

Regarding consolidation in the industry, Joe Corah, division manager for panels distribution and specialty products pointed to the positive outcome for Do it Best members from the BlueLinx and Cedar Creek merger. That deal produced better pricing and better programs, he said. “Mergers and acquisitions are both disruptive and also powerful,” he added.

Ter Molen summarized: “We have to be looking forward for your needs as a whole, and aggressively work on your behalf with vendors.”