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No handshakes or fist bumps

Curbside pickup, technology, speed and a lack of physical interaction are the emphases from pro dealers.

BY Andy Carlo

As pro dealers and building products distributors remain open for business during the coronavirus crisis, they continue to make the case that they provide essential services at a time of great need.

Yet, changes to day-to-day operations continue to be put into place rapidly as extra precautions in combating COVID-19. And interaction in an industry built on personal relationships and handshake deals is quickly being transformed.

Handshakes, which have cemented big deals in the LBM industry, are being avoided due to the coronavirus.

In a memo to employees and customers, ABC Supply Chief Operating Officer Mike Jost has instructed associates to refrain from handshakes, fist bumps, hugs and additional physical contact “until the situation is over.”

The Beloit, Wis.-based building products distributor has also instructed customers to call, text, or email orders so they can be staged for pickup while limiting traffic inside ABC Supply’s facilities. Customer assistance is being emphasized by phone, Facetime, or electronic methods in another effort to limit social interaction at its more than 700 locations nationwide.

“At the moment, we believe that it is in our associates’ and customers’ best interests that we remain open, with some changes in how we conduct business,” Jost said.

BMC communicated changes to its employees and customers in a letter from CEO and President Dave Flitman. This includes limiting in-person meetings and prolonged interactions as much as possible.

The Raleigh, N.C.-based pro dealer also “communicated” its existing telecommuting policy that can be utilized for all associates who may be at a higher risk for severe illness, or who have been advised by their doctor that it is in their best interests to work from home.

“We are also focused on ensuring we are well-prepared to provide the products and services you need when you need them,” Flitman said. “Business continuity is a top priority of our team.”

Massachusetts dealer Mid-Cape Home Centers, one of the earliest industry companies to issue coronavirus policies, said that it remains open as suppliers continue to deliver and there is no shortage of inventory. At the same time, Mid-Cape said that it’s “seeing in an influx of volume for delivery requests.”

In Oregon, Tum-A-Lum Lumber is still open for regular business but has asked its customers to go the route of curbside pickup while prompting customers to refrain from coming into its stores. Tum-A-Lum, a division of TAL Holdings, said the curbside pickup policy is not mandatory, “but simply an add-on service we are providing.”

The dealer is also grateful that it can remain open during difficult times.

“Our hearts go out to all who’ve been impacted – including other local businesses who have been forced to close or make severe adjustments to their business model,” Tum-A-Lum said. “We recognize that we have been blessed by being allowed to stay open, and we are committed to being responsive to your needs as this situation evolves.”

Distributor Cameron Ashley is continuing “normal and fast delivery services” while introducing “Fast” pickup lanes at its distribution centers.

The move allows customers to stop at any one of Cameron Ashley’s centers and pick up an order without ever leaving a vehicle. The company has asked customers to call one to two hours in advance so we can have your order staged and ready for pick up.

Interaction with outside sales reps has been pulled back as well.

“We have asked our outside sales staff to limit their visits to your locations until the threat of spreading the virus has been contained,” Cameron Ashley President and CEO Donny DeMarie said in a letter to customers.

“You may not see us as often as you have in the past, but we will be actively working the phones to make sure you have everything you need.”

LBM associations update:

 

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