Serving others actually improves the quality of your service; it also improves the quality of your life and business. This new idea might be the secret of the independent LBM dealers' strong reputation for service. Employees at the independent enterprises are involved in service every working day. They understand how what they do makes their customers' lives better, and this makes them better at serving those customers. This, in turn, makes the dealers they work for more successful.
Independent LBM dealers (traditional lumberyards, kitchen design and installation houses, local hardware stores and family owned home centers) are not always top of mind for building product consumers. They should be; especially for big project items like kitchen cabinets, decks and materials for room additions. Here, independents still rule.
After only a year on the market, Wolf Classic Cabinets are already number eight on the K+BB Brand Preference Report Top Ten List of stock kitchen cabinets. This is really great recognition especially for a product that has been on the market for such a brief time. So, we're really proud of the fact that, "We're number eight!"
Service is very important to serious consumers of building materials, but price matters too. Independent LBM dealers can deliver consistently on both counts. Most people appreciate the great service; many aren't aware that they can also get greart prices at independent LBM dealers.
As hard as we’ve worked to bring our WOLF Classic stock into balance with demand, we haven’t yet caught up.
Everyone knows that independent LBM dealers (lumberyards, locally owned home centers, and kitchen design and installation houses) provide great service. What many people don't know, however, is that when it comes to certain products like kitchen cabinets, decking, railing and trim products, these independent dealers also provide great prices. The secret's out.
When customers go looking for a good kitchen, a nice deck or a room addition at a good price, they're also looking for good advice. They're looking for people who know all about the products they're selling; they're looking for knowledgeable consultants. Such customers are most likely to find this at independent LBM dealers. This is one of the great competitive advantages independent LBM dealers have over their big box and on-line competitors.
Experts are predicting a nice rebound in residential construction this year. They're especially bullish on remodeling activity. This should be very good news for independent LBM dealers, especially those selling products like kitchen cabinets, decking, railing and exterior trim. These are the products remodeling customers will be looking for. Coincidentally, Wolf has plenty of these great products in stock.
Wolf has a great idea. Actually, Wolf has four great ideas: 1) make sure every product Wolf puts its name on is as good or better than any other product in a similar category in the market; 2) make sure these products are priced at or below the prices of similar products; 3) make sure the sale of these products is accompanied by outstanding customer service; and 4) give the independent dealers who sell Wolf branded products something their big box competitors can't have.
Wolf will be at the NRLA Show in Boston in February and we're excited about the chance it will give us to show off our new products and our efficient supply chain. Thanks to both of these things, LBM dealers will be in a unique position to give their customers both good products and good prices. This is new and it's worth showing off. See you at the Show!
Demand for Wolf Classic Cabinets ran much stronger than we expected in December; January sales are high too. This has led to some temporary stock outages which Wolf will correct within the next two weeks. In the meantime, we're sorry our service levels have dipped. Our customers deserve better from us. We goofed and we're sorry.
Economic analysts are just beginning to notice a growing trend toward domestic manufacturing. Wolf has been touting this and building its supply chain around this idea for a number of years now. I can't help saying to these astute pundits, "I told you so."
Thanks to all the dealers who were so generous with their confidence in Wolf in 2012. Thanks too for your support. I hope that confidence and support resulted in a successful year for you all.
Success in business comes not simply from listening to the customer; it comes from actually hearing the customer. Zara has become the biggest retailer in the world by doing this consistently, systematically, and effectively. Independent building materials dealers with their frequent and close contact with their customers are in an equally great position to hear their customers and turn that ability into extraordinary business success.
The WOLF story is a good one; it's also unusual. It's about a supply chain made up of traditional parts that WOLF has turned into an innovative and effcient way to get great products to customers in a timely and competitive way.
The traditional LBM industry is all about long term thinking. The reason for this is that long term thinking generally produces real short term results. At Wolf, we believe this is the right way to approach our business and our relationships with our customers.
There is new evidence that American manufacturing is making a comeback. This comeback is in large part the result of American workers who are productive and innovative.
Wolf's supply chain is essentially an exclusive club that only independent and traditional LBM dealers can join. It is remarkably efficient, and it delivers a quality, price, and service value proposition that these dealers simply won't find anywhere else.
In picking vendors, dealers should expect more from less. Dealers should look for a few vendors like WOLF from whom they can get competitive access to a broad array of products.
Hurricane Sandy left a great deal of destruction in its wake. When the rebuilding process begins, Wolf wants to be ready to provide the products it sells without delay. Let us know what you need and we'll do our best to make sure our supply chain has the material you need when you need it. Help us help you. Thanks.
Hurricane Sandy has devasted many communities up and down the East Coast. Local LBM dealers will be at the heart of the recovery process because in so many ways they are at the heart of those communities.
Conventional wisdom holds that you can't have both good service and good prices when you buy building products. At Wolf, we believe this is a myth, and we're working very hard to prove it with the products we sell and the way we sell them.
It's not too early to think about the future of our industry, and if the past is any guide, the first signs of renewed life in the residential construction industry will be accompanied by shortages, product allocations, and other supply line bottlenecks. At WOLF we're already thinking about how we can make sure our customers have the products they need once the recovery begins.
In building their brand, traditional LBM dealers should focus on their considerable areas of strength. If they do this, they will have built an enviable brand. They will also have built a very bright future for themselves.
How does a 'brick and mortar' LBM dealer compete in a world where many of the things we sell is available online? The answer lies in the consumer's still powerful sense of place.
The idea that trust matters when it comes to business success is not a universally recognized idea. And, although trust has long been seen as a key ingredient in economic prosperity, it seems to be a relatively new discovery among academic economists. Here in the building products industry we've never doubted its importance.
Everybody knows that independent dealers can run circles around the boxes when it comes to service. What many don't know is that they can also out-compete them on price especially when it comes to big project items like kitchen cabinets, decking materials and the things used in room additions. In other words, when you shop the independents, you can often have your cake and eat it too.
A successful supply chain must deliver on three important promises: price, quality, and timeliness. For the past few decades, supply chains originating outside the United States have become very adept at delivering on two of these three promises: low prices and acceptable quality standards. But despite all the great strides these supply chains have made, one insurmountable challenge remains: distance. Wolf has solved this distance problem by sourcing its products from American manufacturers which allows its supply chain to deliver on all three promises: price, quality, and timeliness.
Relationships matter in the building materials business. It's why Wolf takes relationship building - and maintaining - so seriously. Strong relationships are at the heart of efficient supply chains. They also drive business success.
Big residential construction prodject dealers - aka independents - have a uniquely powerful brand which they generally fail to exploit. When they do exploit this brand and build on their inherent strangths, however, they lay the foundation for a potentially spectacular future.
Wolf can't prevent all the surprises that make like in our industry interesting, but it can help when it comes to some of the more disruptive ones that create real angst for independent building materials dealers. Wolf has been around for 169 years; we're in it for the long haul. That makes us a real source of stability in an unstable industry.
Big residential project dealers shouldn't sell themselves short by trying to play the exact same game as the big boxes or the online retailers. They should capitalize on their superior knowledge and experience to stock, display and sell products that fit the needs of their customers but that they won't be able to find anywhere else.
Building materials dealers are a modest bunch. In fact, they're too modest. The LBM business is a great place to work; it's a great place to invest; it's just a great industry. It would be an even greater industry, however, if the men and women who work in it believed this. I suggest these good people recognize this convenent truth.
Wolf uses its unique perspective and size to turn ordinary parts - independent dealers, American manufacturers, wholesale distributors - into a very efficient supply chain. This supply chain allows big residential project dealers to provide great products at competitive prives for its customers.
What matters most to building product consumers is not how big a store is, but how big a residential construction project that store can handle.
Modern consumers are "experience" consumers. They are much more interested in things that will make their busy lives better, more enjoyable, more bearable. This has a special implication for big residential projects. The old consumer preoccupation with more square feet per dollar is giving way to an equally focused preoccupation with better experiences per square foot. This should be good news for traditional LBM dealers.
So what's all the buzz about Wolf? Are we for real? Do we deserve all the attention we're getting? Are we really as innovative as they say? Read this and judge for yourselves.
The growth of specialized one-steppers is seen by some as an indication of turmoil among dealers who serve professional and amateur big project customers. Not so. Rather the growth of these specialists is just one more indication of the strength, agility, resilience and relevance of the channel that serves those big project customers.
Independent LBM dealers are not only relevant, they're superior to everyone else. The very things that make them old fashioned - experience, knowledge and capital assets - also make them ideally suited to meet the needs of big residential construction projects.
Process matters when it comes to creating an efficient supply chain and an efficient supply chain is the independent LBM dealer's ticket to great profits.
Housing starts are not where they were a few short years ago and the consumer is still a bit shy about spending money on home improvements. On the other hand, there are in fact signs of life out there and independent dealers are in a good position to encourage those faint signs of life and take advantage of them.
Sometimes we can learn a lot from companies outside our industry. Zara, the successful Spanish retailer is a case in point.
Conditions are far from ideal in the residential construction world but these could still turn out to be very good times for the independent building materials dealer.
Independent LBM dealers are a distinctive breed. They can reinforce this distinctiveness by featuring products - like Wolf products - that can only be found in the independent channel.
Independent LBM dealers often get a lot of sympathy from the press and their neighbors. They are solidly rooted in their communities so they definielty deserve that sympathy. But they're also very good at what they do especially when it comes to big construction and remodeling projects. So while they deserve our sympathy, they deserve our business even more.
The Wolf KBI for May was 69.55. The Wolf KBI is calculated monthly based on the sentiments of the key buyers at a selected sample of Wolf’s best customers. These customers buy kitchen and bath and building products from Wolf and are located in an eighteen state region in the Eastern United States extending from Georgia in the south to Maine in the North.
Counter people make a huge difference to the customers they serve and the building materials dealers they work for. They're very important people and they deserve great appreciation.
WOLF has created an innovative supply chain based on a very traditional foundation consisting of: 1) wholesale distribution; 2) independent building materials dealers; and 3) American manufacturers. This traditional foundation has produced a surprisingly efficient supply chain.
Suggestions that we are in the midst of a new industrial revolution don't go far enough. It's not simply an industrial revolution we're experiencing; it's a full blown supply line revolution. This is especially true in the building materials industry.
A recent survey suggests that contractors are returning to their traditional independent dealers because they want the robust array of services these independents provide even though they might pay a little more for the products they are buying. I agree with the part about robust services, but I don't agree that professionals will have to pay higher prices to get them.
When it comes to big projects, independent dealers have what the customer wants and needs. This should give these independents a leg up in the war for this important segment of the market.
Independent building materials dealers have the qualities a serious customer needs in a building products supplier. Big project consumers - amateurs or pros - should understand and accept this fact. Independent dealers - modest bunch that they are - should accept it too.
This is the launch of Wolf's new Key Buyer Index (KBI), a unique indicator of activity in the residential construction industry based on the monthly perspectives of the key buyers of a sample of independent building materials dealers located in the eastern United States.
Evidence of American manufacturing strength continues to reveal itself. We should not be so surprised by this.
The era of cheap labor in China is fast coming to end, but that doesn't mean a decline in China's manufacturing prowess. That's obviously good news for China, but I think it's also good news for American manufacturers.
Last week, I did a low-budget YouTube spot touting the fact that Wolf’s private label products are made in the United States. I suggested that US manufacturers have done a great job providing us with high quality products at competitive prices. Like many others, we are discovering that American workers still know how to make great products that will compete with anything made anywhere in the world. This, I argued is a very good thing for American consumers. It is also a very good thing for the American economy.
Independent dealers come in all shapes and sizes. They are small kitchen and bath design and installation houses, they are single branch lumberyards, and they are big pro-oriented building materials suppliers. Regardless of how much they vary in size and shape, however, they all know how to serve the serious building products consumer. This is why they succeed, and this is why Wolf is proud to serve them.
Independent building materials dealers are locked in a fierce battle for the remodeling professional. It is an important battle for independent dealers and it is one that they can win.
Wolf is betting that the independent dealer has a secure place in the future of the building materials industry. Consumers want the kind of knowledgeable employees, great products and competitive pricing that can only be found at an independent dealer. This is especially true when it comes to the products used in big remodeling projects.
The steady stream of demand from new residential constructionwill not come back any time soon - if ever. This is the bad news for the independent dealer. The good news is that there is plenty of demand from professionals and serious do-it-yourselfers working on big remodeling projects.
We should not be so quick to dismiss American manufacturing prowess. We're finding that American manufacturers can compete with anyone in the world.
If you want the right products at the best prices for a big project, check out the independent building materials dealer near you. Their secret is an efficient supply chain.
When it comes to the independent building materials dealer, value really can go hand in hand with independence.
Selling great products not found in big box retailers is one more way for independent building materials dealers to differentiate themselves from those big boxes. It's also a way to stay independent and successful.
Wolf understands that an efficient supply chain is not simply a function of design; it is also a function of execution.
When it comes to the products serious remodeling projects require, buying local - from independent building materials dealers - is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do.
Wolf touts its supply chain as innovative and efficient. It promises independent dealers better quality products at better prices. The best thing about it, though, is that it's sustainable and it's for real.
Are independent building materials dealers the key to an efficient supply chain? Yes. Really!
When it comes to improving operational efficiency, building materials dealers need to look to their supply chain - their whole supply chain. Henry Ford built an efficient supply chain for automobile owners and Wolf is doing it for the independent building materials dealer.
Competitiveness is all about the design of the supply chain. Wolf believes its supply chain is the most efficient.
Wolf produces great products at great prices thanks to its uniquely efficient supply chain. As in the past, this streamlined supply chain and the great products it produces are all at the disposal of the independent building materials dealer. This Re-Declaration for Independents renews, refreshes and emphasizes Wolf's unambiguous dedication to the independent dealer.
Former Intel Chair, Andy Grove suggests that American manufacturing is important not only because it creates an economy of good jobs but because it also fosters a national culture continuous innovation. Wolf is proud that its American-made products promote both American jobs and American innovation.
This is not an easy time to be a professional residential builder or remodeler, nor is it a great time to be selling to professional builders and remodelers. Still, there is ample evidence to suggest that the pro-dealer is well positioned to take advantage of future growth in the building products industry.
There is a growing sentiment in favor of buying American-made products in the construction industry, but too many people still believe that following through on this worthy sentiment will produce higher costs. Wolf's recent experience is that American-made products can compete well with foreign-made products on both quality and price.
In his song, "Made in America" Toby Keith suggests that while it's patriotic to buy American products, you might have to pay more for them. He's wrong.
The idea that you have to pay premium prices to buy building products from independent dealers is a myth.
Last week, I rode along with one of our truck drivers to deliver building products to a number of our dealer customers in New England.
Complaints not only remind us of our fallibility and our imperfections, but they also indicate what we might do to improve our service. They can also let our customers know that we really care about them.
People who work as inside sales people for building materials dealers work hard. Wolf wants to do what it can to make their jobs easier and more productive.
In his 2001 bestseller, Good to Great, Jim Collins suggests that all businesses need to raise their expectations. If they do this, good companies can become great companies. At Wolf, we want to become a great company too. But we believe that we can only become a great company by dedicating ourselves to the never ending task of just getting better.
It turns out that American manufacturers are showing signs of a new competitiveness even in sectors that we thought had long ago conceded defeat to overseas companies and workers.
I’ve been asked why Wolf is so bullish on the independent dealer channel. Apparently, some people have convinced themselves that the independent (i.e. the professional) dealer is at a competitive disadvantage to the big boxes. Many of these skeptics seem to feel that these big boxes will do to the independent building products dealers what Walmart did to the independent retailers of this country.