Building a Future for Distributors and Dealers of Building Products

January/February 2005                                Volume 44,  Issue 1

Distributor Dilemmas
         A Company's Day-to-Day Endeavors

A Dangerous Job
Faster Lead Times Required by Homebuilders

by Steve Linn

Mr. and Mrs. Jones had decided the time had come to build their dream home. Intoxicated with anticipation and enthusiasm, they wanted to make sure that they left no stone unturned. While doing their product research the time came to decide on interior door styles for their new home. 

Meet Mr. And Mrs. Jones
“Look, honey. They all come in hollow core or solid core, thin 13/8 or thick 13/4. Yea! It’s kind of like thin and crispy or thick and chewy,” the wife says. 

“Wait a minute, dumpling. Look at all the other moulded-panel designs. There’s the two-panel square top, the two-panel arch top, the two-panel eyebrow top, the three panel, the four-panel square top, the four-panel arch top, traditional six panel, smooth skin, textured skin, hollow core, solid core and some even come with a raised moulding look,” the husband says.

“You know, pooky, these doors are mainly for painting. Maybe we should think about wood panel doors for staining. Wow! Look at this company. They make wood-raised panel doors in 32 different designs,” the wife says. 

“And look, sweetie. We can get them in clear pine, knotty pine, ash, oak, maple, mahogany, alder, knotty alder, walnut or cherry,” the husband says. 

“Muffin, we have to stop. That’s enough to think about,” the wife says. 

“Yes, I agree, pumpkin, but hold the phone! You have to see this! Here’s a company that makes doors out of MDF. What’s MDF stand for, honey?” the wife asks. 

“I think it must stand for ‘many doors from’ which to choose because they say that their design options are unlimited! We could even get our family crest carved in the panels,” the husband answers.

Be Very Afraid
This lovely couple could be headed your direction through a builder near you. Not only might they be headed your way, but they’ve also waited until the last minute to make their decision. What are the chances that you will have what they need in stock? If you have to special order them, what are the chances that you will get them in time for pre-hanging and delivering them to the jobsite, without delaying the builder?Does it seem like more and more door packages require special ordering? Even though we carry a tremendous selection of doors at our company, our factory truckload orders are coming in more often with a majority of the doors being special order.

I like a new door design as well as the next guy; however, just how many more door designs could there possibly be in the world? Builders and the general public are already overwhelmed with the large number of existing door designs. 

A Few Suggestions
In my humble opinion, I believe that manufacturers should place a greater emphasis on finding better ways to market the doors they already offer. 

If you are a manufacturer considering the design and launch of a new door product, here are a few suggestions from a dealer’s perspective, which may help you have a greater chance for success. 

First, make sure you have a complete line of door widths and heights. For example, there is nothing more frustrating than not having a 1-3 door width needed to complete a 2-6 twin unit in a house. 

Second, have quick availability for Mr. and Mrs. Jones, who waited until the last minute to make their selection. If you design a new door that you’re proud of and you’re sure it will be a big hit, consider putting it in your own inventory so you can provide quick delivery. We might consider stocking them ourselves; however, we’re afraid that the next hot design is just around the corner and our new inventory could be obsolete before we hardly get started, not to mention that we would need a warehouse the size of Rhode Island to hold every new door design that comes out! 

If you want your new door products to be a success, then find a way to make them attractive to dealers. If distributors are stocking your doors, consider partnering with them on the necessary equipment needed to size doors for their local dealers. This would provide a way for the dealers to obtain a larger variety of non-stock or new door designs with their unique sizing specifications, as well as achieving a quick lead time.

We’re living in an age of instant information, instant communication and instant gratification. Customers want what they want, and they want it now. The one thing you can count on these days is that much of the time they’re going to want what you don’t stock!

What I’m really trying to say to all of you door manufacturers is this, “For the love of Pete, please, I’m begging you to cool it on the new door designs and let us catch our breath. I know you can do it. Just walk into the engineering department and tell your designer, ‘Take your finger off the mouse, back away from the computer and no one gets hurt!’” 

Steve Linn has been a professional in the millwork distribution business for 25 years.


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