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Exclusive: Do it Best Merchandising VP Offers Houston Preview, Outlines Company Priorities

Jason Stofleth, Do it Best Vice President of Merchandising

Ahead of the Do it Best Spring 2024 Market in Houston, Hardware Retailing had the opportunity to talk to vice president of merchandising Jason Stofleth. Learn more about the co-op’s strategies for helping retailers navigate inventory and increase foot traffic and what to expect on the market floor—inside and out—in Houston. 

On Do it Best’s Strategy for Helping Retailers Manage Inventory

Hardware Retailing (HR): Can you talk a little bit about how your strategy for keeping members in stock has changed over the last couple of years?

JS: Do it Best is an exciting place. In merchandising, our goal is ultimately to keep our members competitive, profitable and in stock, and on the forefront of change and innovation. I’m very proud of how our team rose to the occasion over the last several years. We had some very trying times, and we did an excellent job working through those challenges and really staying ahead of the pack with respect to our ability to serve our members with a high service level. We were aggressive and had high expectations and really that hasn’t changed. We look to maintain a 97% service level to our members, and we have returned to that level, and we’re going to continue to put forth the effort to stay at 97% or higher.

HR: In the 2023 Cost of Doing Business Study from the North American Hardware and Paint Association, we learned that inventory per square foot for typical hardware stores is $76 and home centers are at $53, both high-water marks for their segments compared to previous years. How are you helping retailers balance their inventory on hand and move it through quickly?

JS: Really the key there is ensuring members are set up for success with respect to bringing customers into their store and making sure they win on those sales as people are shopping in their stores. Having the right products at the right price with strong promotional offerings are key to making sure they are winning at retail.

On How E-Commerce and Merchandising Intersect

HR: Last year, Do it Best launched a brand new e-commerce platform. Tell us how the Do it Best e-commerce team and the merchandising team have worked together.

JS: E-commerce plays a big part in getting consumers into our members’ stores. Our platform allows them to shop doitbest.com, see their local Do it Best store has the item they need and easily purchase it for store pickup. That’s really a focus with e-commerce—driving traffic to the store—then hopefully when they’re there, they’ll go inside and shop a little bit. We work very closely with e-commerce because we manage those product vendor relationships as well as the pricing, and then e-commerce helps us make sure that we’re telling the right story with creating content and promotion of our brands online.

On Helping Retailers Be Competitive in Their Local Markets

HR: What are some key initiatives your team is focusing on?

JS: We want to continue to provide a high level of customer service to our members and really one of the strengths is providing direct access to our expert team. Members are able to call or email when they need assistance, and we’re ready to serve them the way they want to be. We are here thanks to our members, and we need to keep that at the forefront of everything we’re doing. 

Pricing is another area where we are continuing our proactive work to ensure we’re keeping our members competitive. The key word there is proactive. Our members are not just waiting for the price change, we’re not just waiting for member feedback to come in, but on our end, we’re looking at where we have opportunities with respect to pricing. 

As we move forward, it’s also a priority of ours to stay on the forefront of change, whether that’s knowing what’s coming with respect to brands or product technologies. We are making sure we are setting up our members to have access to those key brands in all categories.

On Spring Market Featured Areas

HR: This is the second spring market on the road, with last year’s event in Orlando being the first traveling spring market in decades. What’s been the feedback on traveling markets and this location in particular?

JS: It’s been very well received and members are excited. Our markets used to be in May, which for a lot of members, it was really difficult to travel and get out of their stores, whether they were local to Indianapolis or not. But now that we’re in March, it makes it more possible, and then to go to a warmer destination makes it even easier now. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on having spring markets on the road and then keeping our fall markets in Indianapolis because it’s sort of like a homecoming every fall.

HR: What are some of the areas of the market floor that attendees should be sure to visit when they get to Houston?

JS: Members attend the spring market to focus on fall and winter, but the good news about our spring market being in March is that there are still some opportunities for the spring and summer season as well. 

Solutions in Action and Pro Zone

One of the main highlights on the Market Floor is our Solutions in Action space. That’s a 10,000-square-foot area that will be a Texas-size shopping experience. This real-world exhibit features a storefront modeled after our home center format, and it will be loaded with proven solutions. We’re talking 1,400 linear feet of planograms, and many of them have fantastic deals on them. At this market, we’re heavily focusing on paint, so half of the exhibit will be everything paint. 

In that space, we will also have an area that we’re calling the Pro Zone, which is focused specifically for lumberyards or members with a high volume of pro traffic. 

Launch Zone and New Item Gallery

We continue to increase the number of vendor partners we do business with as we continue to grow. One of the exciting new initiatives in our warehouse is our lineup of Paslode products. Paslode is a very powerful brand in power tools. Do it Best members will be able to come to the spring market and place their first Paslode orders and receive some exclusive pricing as well. 

We’re not stopping there. We are introducing 75 new vendors at this upcoming market and then we have an exciting area that we call the Launch Zone, which is where we showcase a few of those new vendors that really have an edge with innovative products or newly enhanced products. We’re going to have twice the number of vendors in that area as we’ve had at previous markets. I’m really excited about the new vendors and new products. Then to complement that, we have our New Item Gallery which is where we feature 1,000 of our newly added items so members can interact with them before making a purchase. 

Patio Preview 2025

We don’t normally showcase patio as significantly in the spring, but at this market, we’re going to be previewing our 2025 patio assortment so members can test it out. That really helps them get ahead of placing their orders not for this spring season, but for spring 2025 to ensure they have the products that their customers want. We’re really excited to have that offered at this upcoming market.

LBM Industry Update & Merchandising Preview

I can’t go without giving LBM a shoutout. They will have experts who will provide a market recap and discuss the latest insights and industry trends. And we like to kick off each market with our Merchandising Preview. So at breakfast on the first day of the market, members will be able to hear from each of our experts and merchandising managers to highlight new product vendors and market exclusives. So that is an event our members really need to attend on that first full day of the market.

On the Spring Market Specials and Special Events

HR: What are some unique opportunities retailers have at this market?

JS: It’s going to be bigger and better than ever before, and it’s only appropriate because we are in Houston, right? 

As we have a very diverse membership, our goal is to make sure that no matter what type of operation a member has—if they’re a pro lumberyard or home center or a hometown hardware store or maybe more online—we want to have something for each and every one of our members. 

For Houston specifically, we understand it takes time and money to travel to a market, and we want to make it rewarding. We have come up with some great incentives to get members excited to come to the market. 

First, just for coming to Houston, members will receive an additional 5% off their order totals on market warehouse orders during our market window. Then, one of our returning favorite events is Sneak Peek, and during that time, which is the evening before the first day of the market right after the Market kickoff, we’re hosting our Market Mixer event. The floor is open, but only for Sneak Peek vendors, Do it Best staff and members.

This event at the Houston market is going to be the largest Sneak Peek we’ve ever had, with 33% more vendors participating, offering very deep discounts—we’re talking up to 50% off—and then we’re also offering an additional incentive. Members who participate in Sneak Peek will receive 2% six month dating on all of their Sneak Peek items. That allows them to load up on these great deals, and then sell them over the course of six months before that bill even comes due.

In addition to the great deals they’re getting, just for coming to that event, members will have the opportunity to win one of three very large prizes: $10,000, $15,000 and $25,000 of store credit are up for grabs. So that’s a really fun and rewarding reason to come to that event as we kick off the market.

Then, after the first night of the market we have a once-in-a-lifetime event with a very VIP special guest offering their perspectives on leadership. That Sunday night event is something that our members absolutely won’t want to miss. 

About Melanie Moul

Melanie is the communications and content manager for the North American Hardware and Paint Association. She joined the NHPA team in 2016 as an editor for Hardware Retailing and now helps lead the communications team to deliver relevant, timely content to the industry.

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