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2018 Do it Best Fall Market Emphasizes Category Growth

Independent home improvement retailers flooding the floor of the 2018 Do it Best Fall Market found the programs and retail solutions that are critical for helping them develop specific categories.

The market, held Oct. 12-15 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, capped a fiscal year that included a healthy bottom line for the company and growth in its member base.  

“We want to make sure that Do it Best members enjoy a distinct advantage with us because it matters in their results, and we believe there’s no better place for them to understand the full scope of that advantage than at the market,” says Dan Starr, president and CEO of Do it Best Corp. “From the industry’s most effective supply chain to our innovative programs and products to our experienced team, we want to be recognized in this industry as the first and best choice for independent home improvement – known the world over for our dedication to excellence and our commitment to helping our members grow.”

Category Opportunities

At the 2018 Do it Best Spring Market, the co-op introduced several new category initiatives, including the Color Bar paint program and the Connected Home assortment for selling smart home products. At the fall market, the focus was on helping member-owners expand those programs and integrate them into their stores.

“Today’s consumer is a different consumer than they were even a few years ago,” says Steve Markley, vice president of merchandising at Do it Best. “We are helping our customers stay relevant and giving them the programs and services they need to stay current with trends.”

Vincent and Anthony Christofora from Woodstock Hardware in Woodstock, New York, used the market to check out new products to add to their outdoor power equipment department.

Vince and Diane Christofora from Woodstock Hardware in Woodstock, New York, were at the market with their two sons, Anthony and Vincent. Even at 7 and 9 years old, respectively, the two young retailers were market veterans who had a sense for the categories they needed to cover at the market.

“We converted our light bulbs section to LEDs,” says Anthony. “We have bulbs from the floor to the ceiling, but we’re going to be looking at what’s new at the market and adding more.”

They were on the lookout for new products across several categories throughout the weekend, including fasteners and outdoor power equipment. “We’ve added a lot of things for smart homes,” says Vincent. “We’ll even show customers how to use them if they need us to. We’re looking at a new smart watering system and even a new smart mouse trap at this market.”

Paint has been another area Do it Best emphasized. With the debut of the Color Bar paint program last year, retailers have a way to make that category a destination while increasing their customer base. In addition to its central paint program, Do it Best also offered a wide range of sundries, enhanced by its recent partnership with Paint Sundries Solutions.

Keith Conner, from Heartland Building Center in Hays, Kansas, was a first-time attendee to the market.

“I’m excited about seeing everything Do it Best has at this market. It’s huge,” he says. “I just started working at our store and now I’m in charge of the paint department, so I’m looking for something new I can take back to the business.”

Another way more and more Do it Best retailers are experiencing growth is through acquisition of other businesses. John Finch, of Meuser Lumber Company in Guttenberg, Iowa, has traditionally run a lumber business, but recently purchased a hardware store from a retailer who did business with another wholesaler. He’s been using his co-op’s programs in the conversion process.

“We really like the merchandising solutions Do it Best has to offer,” he says. “We’ve been revamping a lot of categories in our new hardware store. The market is a good way for us to see how we can improve the ways we’re doing things.”

Supply Chain Improvements

In addition to creating category solutions for its customers, perfecting its distribution model has been an ongoing priority for Do it Best. Lately the co-op has made several improvements to its distribution system, such as doing more backhauls (reducing the number of times a driver travels home from a delivery with an empty trailer) and instituting OWL deliveries (orders delivered at night, saving retailers the labor needed to unload the truck and giving Do it Best a better use of its fleet). The company has also implemented a new transportation management system which will allow it to reduce the time drivers spend on the road by approximately one million miles per year.

“All of these changes have given us more control over our movement of goods and in turn allows us to better serve our members,” says Markley.

Another topic hot on the minds of many retailers has been the tariffs and how they will impact the cost of goods. While the full implementation of the tariffs and their ultimate effect on the price of goods on the shelf are yet to be known, Markley says Do it Best is focusing on ways to prepare. At the fall market, for example, retailers will be able to purchase several items at pre-tariff pricing.

“We will be working with vendors on keeping our prices competitive,” he says. “We have already done some forward buying on key products to lessen the impact the tariffs will eventually have on our customers.”

Weekend Full of Events

The market weekend also held many opportunities for retailers to network and gain insights into the industry. Friday’s Education Day offered dozens of free training sessions delivered by subject matter experts. The Power Preview offered an exclusive first look at the latest in outdoor power equipment, outdoor cooking and backyard lifestyle products. Retailers attending the LBM Industry Update gathered information on the best LBM purchasing strategies and market deals.

At the Friday afternoon Market Kickoff event, company leaders shared the co-op’s vision for enhancing store performance. Retailers also got a special treat in a keynote address from entrepreneur Johnny Cupcakes, who shared the unconventional and inspiring insights he used to help take his business nationwide.

Sunday evening, at the annual Shareholders’ Meeting, Do it Best marked the 15th consecutive year member rebates exceeded $100 million. Six members received rebates above $1 million each and one member earned a rebate in excess of $2.6 million.

“Our drive to be the best by fueling our members’ continued growth has never been stronger,” says Starr. “And we believe our members experienced that drive and the many opportunities available to them for the year ahead at the fall market.”

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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