At Friedman’s Home Improvement in Petaluma, California, customers can shop the entire lumberyard in one aisle inside the store.
It’s the latest evolution of the company’s Express Yard™ concept, which makes buying lumber and building materials fast and easy—another way Friedman’s sets itself apart from the traditional home improvement store.
The idea of the Express Yard started in Friedman’s Ukiah, California, location in 1996. There, each item had an express pick ticket where customers could mark the quantity they wanted to buy, pay for it and then load it into their vehicles. “We let the customer use their truck as a shopping cart and they never had to come into the store,” says Tony Corsberg, vice president of merchandising at Friedman’s.
The Express Yard continues to be popular with contractor and DIY customers alike. But when Corsberg and his team began to plan for the company’s fourth store in Petaluma, they wanted a way to bring the Express Yard concept onto the retail salesfloor.
The resulting display, which represents more than 3,950 SKUs, consists of a single aisle with a 50-foot display of lumber on one side and a 60-foot display of pipe, farm and ranch items, and building materials on the other. Customers can see and touch samples of the various types and sizes of product normally found in the lumberyard. Each product has a pull tag, or pick ticket, where customers can write their desired quantity. They then take these tickets to the cashier in the store. After paying, the customer drives through the yard, where they or one of the yard staff loads their vehicle.
The Express Yard display is used mostly by DIY customers, who typically want to browse more than contractor customers. Contractors can still fill out their pick tickets and load their trucks in the yard, but unlike the other Friedman’s locations, contractors shopping the Express Yard in Petaluma must step inside the store to pay. The reason, says Corsberg: an anti-pollution city ordinance, aimed at reducing the time cars spend idling their engines, that doesn’t allow merchants to take payment outside. He has a dedicated contractor’s desk that still makes it easy for those customers to get in and out.
To keep the Express Yard display running smoothly, Corsberg says they regularly have to update the price signs, since most of the items are based on commodity pricing. His team also needs to maintain the product on the display as it gets worn out from being handled.
“It’s been very well received,” says Corsberg. “It’s convenient and faster than big-box lumberyards, where shoppers have to haul their own lumber through the store before checking out.”