Volume 46, Issue 5 - June 2007

Stock It Up
Lead Times Put a Squeeze on Dealers
by Samantha Carpenter

Dean Meredith knows how tough it can be to get his retail dealers to stock outdoor products on their store floors. He is a partner in Coastal Products Plus LLC in Gulf Breeze, Fla., a wholesale distributor of coastal building products, including docks, seawalls, boat lifts, dock accessories, water-front decking and vinyl. 

“Our products are a big investment. We end up finding out that a lot of our retail dealers want to job order,” Meredith says. “They want the samples and the literature, and then they try to make the sale, and it’s more cost prohibitive that way because we aren’t selling it to them at truckload prices.”

Have a Plan, Especially When Customers Don’t
Some end users don’t plan well and enter a shop wanting outdoor materials that day, so they can begin their weekend warrior projects. Do all dealers and distributors face these types of customers? And if they do, do they have the necessary product stock to fill orders? What do they do when they don’t? 

Tony Norem is the TimberTech product specialist at McCabe Lumber in Loveland, Ohio. His company has a 232,000-square-foot warehouse and keeps everything inside, even framing lumber and composite decking.“Even though it is an outdoor product, we feel it keeps better and stays better indoors,” Norem says. “Sometimes we run out of room. We also use metal racking, and, on occasion, trying to get a 20-foot flexible board into a metal rack can be kind of difficult.”

Taking the Lead
Stocking issues often force lumberyards and dealers to turn to their distributors and even to manufacturers for help.

Dian E. Christensen is marketing manager and human resources director at Christensen Lumber Inc. in Fremont, Neb. Her company sells traditional lumber for decking as well as three lines of composite decking: Rhino Deck, TimberTech and GeoDeck. Plus, the company can also order Trex.

“We can get anything based on what the builder or end user really wants,” Christensen says. 

Christensen says her lumber company doesn’t really face issues with lead times.

“We’ve been very fortunate that the wholesale distributors we use are able to get product within a reasonable length of time,” she says.

But Christensen has run into the problem where an end user hasn’t planned well.

“They want to do their project tomorrow or yesterday, and sometimes we don’t have the brand they want. A lot of times, we are able to steer them to one of our other products because of features and benefits.”

Jack Aden is president of Rawles-Aden Building Products Inc., a wholesale distributor in Petersburg, Va. His company distributes Western red cedar fencing and a split rail fencing product that has a locust post and hemlock rail. The company also distributes Elk Corp. composite decking.

His company has lead-time issues, especially with cedar products. 

“The shortage of logs has been so acute,” he says. “You pretty much have to rock along with your traditional supplier because you can’t find any new suppliers who are interested in taking on new business because they are in the same boat.”

He says with his composite decking line, the lead times haven’t been bad, and the company can get shipments within a week.

Norem says McCabe Lumber doesn’t usually run into any problems as far as lead times.

“We’ve aligned ourselves with the best distributors in the Cincinatti area—Palmer-Donovan and Universal Forest Products—and with Trex, we have a local rep,” he says, adding, “Anytime there is a problem or technical question with a TimberTech product, I have a direct line to the company.”

Meredith says Coastal Products Plus runs into lead-time challenges; therefore, they stock a lot of product in their yard. 

“Our main composite decking company is manufactured by AERT, and they’ve been struggling to keep up with production,” he says. “We stock more material than any other distributor that we are aware of. We keep far more [product] than our bean counters say we should, but we don’t concern ourselves with that. We concern ourselves with whether we have to turn a dealer down and tell him it’s going to take three weeks to get it from the manufacturer. We combat [lead-time issues] by having products sitting in our yard.” 

How High Should I Jump?
Companies are continuously going out of their way for customers. Distributors and dealers know this well.

Coastal Products Plus LLC in Gulf Breeze, Fla., received a call from a customer who had found its website and was interested in the company’s product. One problem: the customer was out of the company’s territory. But that didn’t stop Coastal from helping.

“We ended up finding the product for him in his territory in an old Weyerhaeuser yard,” says Dean Meredith, a partner in Coastal Products Plus. “They had quit stocking it, but it was sitting in the back, and we found the product, got it in and ended up selling it to the distributor up there to make the sale. We didn’t make anything on it, but we believe in the product that much.”

McCabe Lumber faced a situation where a homeowner had a composite deck that was installed incorrectly; it was a parsonage for a church. 

Tony Norem, TimberTech product specialist for the company, made a call to his supervisor who told him to call the vendor.

“I called TimberTech and got our sales reps involved, and TimberTech was nice enough to replace the entire deck surface,” Norem says. “This was above and beyond the call of duty, considering the homeowners were warned that it wasn’t installed properly. TimberTech just wrote the material off, and the problem was fixed.”

Samantha Carpenter is editor of Shelter magazine.

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