Finding the right mix
With all the options out there, dealers can face some tough choices in deciding what—and how much—to stock.
With that in mind, Ply Gem has reduced the number of pieces on a pallet to help dealers carry a broader range of products.
“It’s so important that the dealer be able to turn this inventory, and have diversity in what he offers,” Hawk says. “We’d rather him have an offering that is four miles wide and four inches deep than one inch wide and four miles deep of all the same product that doesn’t turn for him. Our dealer approach is to make sure that he doesn’t get bogged down with inventory that doesn’t move but can instead offer more opportunities for increasing the scope and size of job by having all the mouldings and accessories that a contractor might need without taking on large inventories.”
Dealers need to be comfortable with their brands, and knowledgeable about their offerings to be successful in the category, says Fypon Product Manager Michelle Hull. “It’s our job to train dealers on new product, ensure they have samples and marketing materials, which in turn allows them to provide contractors with products that get the job done faster,” she says.
When working with a customer, dealers should help them see the whole picture and not just focus on one factor.
“By urging them to factor in all aspects of the product, including the initial purchase price, installation time and any special equipment/training that could be needed, as well as the product’s lifespan, dealers can help their customer make an educated decision,” Brown says. “Know your products so that you can steer customers to products that will both serve their needs and drive repeat business.”
Dealers also should go beyond carrying the basic trim products to be successful in the category. Strategically adding key accessories can help separate a dealer from the competition, Booz says.
“If LBM dealers can focus on a few products that are key to their market, like our new Conceal Water Table, New Construction Window and Door Surrounds or Column Wraps, they will be able to set themselves apart from their competitors,” Booz says. “They will become the go-to dealer to buy not only the commodity 1x trim products, but also be known as a reliable supplier of problem-solving, architecturally correct trim, and moulding products.”
Miller echoed the importance of variety in trim offerings.
“We find a good way to increase margin is to increase choice, by reviewing your portfolio of exterior millwork to make sure it includes enough breadth that will extend into niche oriented selections that may provide incremental margin opportunities,” he says.
By educating their employees, dealers can offer a high value to their customers, both pros and homeowners, Michalski says.
“For LBM dealers to grow their sales in the category, especially of higher margin products, they need to become the source for the products and the product information. Being able to explain the product features and benefits goes hand-in-hand with having them available in the yard,” he says. “Dealers can help their customers buy the best product for the job by having a strong knowledge of the product features and benefits, and by having the ability to provide them with products in a timely manner.”
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Companies in bold participated in this article.
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LP Building Products:
Royal Building Products:
Universal Forest Products:
Zimmerman agreed, noting the importance of understanding the realworld jobsite challenges faced by builders and remodelers.
“The most engaged dealers are the ones that drive business, and we can help facilitate that engagement,” he said. “Show me an engaged dealer, and I’ll show you a successful dealer.”
It’s an attitude that is important to driving innovation and one that Boral tries to embrace with its customers.
“We like to engage with our customers just as we advise dealers to engage with theirs,” Zimmerman said. “Our sales reps are in dealers’ stores and out on jobsites to understand each customer’s needs. The dealers who understand innovation and understand customer needs, and who understand where those cross, will start to grow their profits and margins. And we’re a value-added resource to help them do that.”
Encouraging the use of trim products for both interior and exterior applications can also help grow demand, Scandlyn says.
“That means promoting trim boards for interior moulding rather than just in the exterior aisle,” Scandlyn says. “Offering a complete family of products like PrimeLinx can also assist dealers to grow new sales of higher margin products.
“It may seem like an oversimplification, but dealers need to make sure that they offer products that today’s customers and consumers demand. More and more often we see product decisions being made by the DIYer and designer, not just the builder or sub-contractor. It’s important to offer the products that consumers can use to recreate the looks they see on HGTV, design networks and other social media sites,” he added.
Kapres recommends finding a supplier that offers plenty of resources for educating the dealer team, as well as marketing and displaying the products. And be sure to take advantage of those offerings.
“If you’re going to put your money into an investment in our product, your inventory dollars, your hard-earned inventory, you owe it to yourself to take the time to make yourself successful selling it,” he says.
“So, at Versatex, we have a variety of things that make you better,” Kapres says. “Number one: merchandising. Take advantage of it. Put the counter racks up, put the counter displays up, put the wall boards up, put the floor displays up. Don’t do it just 10 minutes at the counter. Do an hour with your people and go through the selling features of the products, the installation of the products. It’ll make your people better.”
Versatex also encourages its dealers to send at least one person to its two-day “Versatexpert” training at the Versatex plant to become the in-house expert on the products. Versatex Contractor College—hosted during the slow winter months at locations across the country—also offers a chance to educate contractors on the benefits of the product.
“And then the final element, I always believe, is not just taking advantage of the standard merchandising items, [but] actually putting the products to work in a custom display or on the building somewhere,” Kapres says. “They’ll build a little display, put it up, take some product, put fascia up, put the soffit up, maybe some Versawrap columns…put it into use so that when the contractor and homeowner walk in, they can see it on the building or on the showroom floor and you can say, ‘Yeah, that’s Versatex. We sell that. It looks great.’”