New home sales have reached a post-recession high, according to newly released data from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. The data says sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 16.6 percent in April from March. That is the highest sales pace since January 2008. “Builders remain optimistic about the housing market, and this month’s jump in new home sales is a positive sign that growing demand will keep the housing sector on an upward trajectory through the spring buying season,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill.
Independent home improvement retailers who want to earn more business with builders and contractors as the market grows should look at the way they serve those customers to make sure they are differentiating themselves from the competition. Here are a few ways to do that.
Sell high grades of lumber.
Builder customers don’t want to pick through piles of cheap lumber—if they want to do that they can go to the big boxes. Sell the top grades and you will have less waste because more of it will get sold and your lumber piles will be neater and easier to maintain.
Offer free delivery.
With high fuel costs, this is more difficult to do, but it’s a perk that might convert some business from your competitor that charges for delivery. To cut your costs on delivery, combine deliveries whenever possible so you’re always sending out full trucks.
Make the showroom inviting.
Builders want a place to send their customers to select styles for their homes. Your showroom should be clean, uncluttered and inviting. Don’t have space for a big display? Try a computer kiosk where customers can browse options.
Build relationships, not transactions.
Loyal service from your builders is often built on relationships. Listen to what your customers want and respond. Those conversations will show you those product niches or special services you can offer that will differentiate your store’s product mix.
Preassemble small projects.
Builders won’t be the only ones shopping for lumber. Give some attention to the DIYers by grouping products together in project kits that DIYers can easily take home and assemble. A few examples are playsets, planter boxes and picnic tables. You can order kits from manufacturers or create your own by finding plans online.
Show products in use.
Many successful retailers incorporate the products they sell into their stores, such as siding or pavers for the front walk. Label those items so customers know they came from your store. Having them in use helps customers visualize them in their own homes and lets them know you trust the quality of the product enough to use it yourself.