Volume 47, Issue 7 - September 2008

Secret Shopper

Only Half Stocked
New 84 Lumber Store Stock Levels are Mediocre and Raise Questions

Four days after 84 Lumber opened a store in Bethel Heights, Ark., I made a “secret shopping” visit with my fiveyear- old twins in tow. I am somewhat familiar with the area in which this new store is located—between Springdale and Lowell, Ark., since I went to graduate school at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, which is about 20 miles south of Bethel Heights.

As I drove down the street on which the store is located, I was struck by how off the beaten path it is; it’s not located on a main road, but rather in what looked to be a growing residential neighborhood. It was easy to find and had all sorts of banners hanging outside, including one that said “Now Open.” There was also a banner hanging that said “Deck Design,” and that’s what I decided to pursue.

We parked our mini-van, and Clay, Owen and I walked to the front door of the store. Much to my appreciation a salesperson was right there to open the door for us. As we walked in, I couldn’t help but notice that the store looked incredibly bare. There were probably a dozen fixtures and most of them were lined against the walls. While this store had been open four days, it definitely was in its infancy stages and wasn’t stocked to full or even half capacity.

“I’m interested in your deck design program,” I said to the salesperson, whose name I did not get.

He walked over to a display with tons of brochures and handed me the “Deck Design Planner” brochure that 84 Lumber prints. I opened it up and then asked, “Can this be used on both wood and composite decking? What would be the difference?”

“It can be used for both, but the biggest difference is that composite decking is more expensive,” he said.

He didn’t try to sell me a deck. I would have thought with a deck design service that he would have tried to get my information and ask if I wanted to make an appointment. The salesperson wasn’t inundated with customers; we were the only customers in the store.

Not giving up yet, I asked, “Do you have a contractor that you could recommend?”

“We can’t recommend a certain contractor, but many of them place their business cards on the bulletin board over there,” he answered, pointing to the board on the wall by the door.

Since I didn’t feel like he gave me a lot of information, I felt compelled to ask him: “Have you worked for 84 Lumber before?”

“Yes, I worked in the Clarksville store,” he said, and that was it.

After this secret shopping experience, I’m reminded of a key selling point—making a connection with the customer. I have wondered since my visit: Why not wait to open a location until it is fully stocked?

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