Owner of Foothills Hardware & Builders Supply
Baker bought his first store in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, in 2015, and expanded the business in 2018 with the purchase of a second store in Mount Airy.
Hardware Retailing (HR): Do you and your team attend every Dealer Market?
Taylor Baker (TB): We do. I go to every spring show and most of the fall shows. I try to get our employees involved, too, whether it be our general manager, purchasing manager, members of our sales team or our associates. It’s a great opportunity for our employees to see another side of the business. They work every day to sell items to our customers, so I want them to see what it’s like to go to a show and buy those items we sell.
There are so many vendors and other opportunities at the Dealer Markets. I feel like the shows really tell the story of all Orgill has to offer, and I always appreciate when our employees have an opportunity to see that, too.
HR: How do you prepare for the shows?
TB: The Dealer Markets offer plenty to see and do over three short days, and you absolutely have to go in with a plan.
One of the first things we do at the show is walk the floor, just to make sure we don’t miss anything. We make notes of any booths or areas we want to come back and look more closely. Then we go to the promotional areas. That’s in the morning of the first day. That afternoon, we visit the concept stores and the Product Showcases.
For each show, we choose a couple of departments to focus on. It might be a department that’s currently struggling, or maybe a new one we just added to our store. We take some time to make sure the product selection we have for those particular departments is exactly what it needs to be. We talk with vendors and find out about trends and new products in those categories.
We also look at seasonal merchandise. At the spring shows, we look at lawn and garden items and spruce up that category however it may need. At the fall shows, we focus on heating, plumbing and electrical so we can make sure we’re ready for the upcoming winter.
We try to focus on just a few categories at each Dealer Market to ensure we really cover those well. It’s about quality over quantity. We do some pre-buying every year, which is helpful. Not only do we get good prices on items we know we’ll be buying anyway, but that way, we have a little more time when we get to the Dealer Market.
HR: Are there any particular areas you always visit?
TB: We really like the model stores. Sometimes when you’re looking at a product in a vendor’s booth, it’s hard to visualize how it would look in your store. The model store is a great way for us to see many of those products in a real-life setting, right there on the market floor. And they give us ideas, too—the model stores might feature products or even categories we don’t currently have, and they allow us to see how a store flows and how the categories are set up.
We just purchased a new store a few months ago, and we are actually basing its layout off of a model store we saw at the Dealer Market last spring. We have some changes to make, of course, but we’re using that model store as a starting point as we fix up our newest location.
The Product Showcases are really helpful for us, too. These areas show the breadth of product Orgill offers in those particular categories, and again, they always give us some good ideas. We always walk through each of those at every show.
We also attend at least one or two of the seminars at each Dealer Market, and we spend some time learning about all of Orgill’s products and services. This will be especially helpful for us at the show in Orlando later this month, since we’ll want to take advantage of many of these programs as we set our new store. That area provides a good opportunity for retailers to take a closer look at these programs and find a new idea they may want to capitalize on.
HR: How do the Dealer Markets help your business be more profitable?
TB: The markets offer us the opportunity to buy products at great prices. We can get into a new category or try a new planogram at a huge discount—it’s a way to try something new with just a small financial investment. The different promotional areas have so many great deals, too. Orgill puts everything together so well and gives us opportunities for great buys. We always make sure to take advantage of that.
Plus, the Dealer Markets offer us an opportunity to revisit other facets of our business. We can meet face-to-face with the experts at Orgill and talk about pricing or product selection. Orgill offers programs for each of these areas, and we can learn more about any adjustments we might need to make. We actually just went back through our pricing structure with Orgill to make sure our prices are where they need to be.
Without Orgill, we wouldn’t have come as far along as we have these past few years. We’ve taken a couple of stores that were in pretty bad shape and really turned them around, without a huge investment. We’re continuing to improve and grow our businesses, and Orgill and their Dealer Markets have been a big part of our growth, and our success.