The 2017 Do it Best Fall Market kicked off Friday, Oct. 13 in Indianapolis with a refreshed focus on lumber and building materials and a program to help retailers be successful in the expanding smart home market.
The Fort Wayne, Indiana-based co-op recently created new opportunities at the market for seasoned LBM dealers and those who are interested in breaking into the LBM market.
One opportunity started on Education Day, which offered attendees a full day of educational programming. A new LBM segment of educational sessions was held concurrently with the co-op’s other programming segments and included expert panels and pro-focused industry research.
To better serve LBM members on the market floor, Do it Best moved the category to the area of the show floor that includes additional categories that LBM dealers are more inclined to need, like builders’ hardware, home decor and hand and power tools.
“All of these changes are about enhancing the market experience. We want to make sure we’re giving our retail and pro members a value in attending the market,” Gary Nackers, vice president of LBM for Do it Best, says. “Do it Best has a unique advantage because we’re the only buying co-op in the industry that offers a total solution for LBM retailers. In addition to the products they need, we also have store design, marketing, rental and other programs that can help differentiate their businesses.”
Another educational opportunity for LBM retailers will launch in March 2018 with the LBM School. The program has been in development for several years and is a solution to a challenge the LBM industry has seen since rebounding from the recession nearly a decade ago.
“During the recession, LBM veterans left the industry and haven’t returned,” says Do it Best director of communications Randy Rusk. “The people who are coming in to replace those positions have enthusiasm, but not the experience, and there have been a lot of changes and advancements in the industry in recent years that need to be addressed. The LBM School provides guidance, direction and training materials to get this new group grounded in the industry.”
The multiday program includes hands-on training and sales best practices and will take place at the Do it Best headquarters in Fort Wayne.
A secondary but strong benefit of markets and programs is the relationships that participating retailers build with each other.
“Markets are about buying, sourcing product, checking out vendors, but they are also about providing retailers with similar challenges the opportunity to learn from each other, to network and to share best practices,” Rusk says. “Members learn from each other, and anytime we can give them a setting to do that, it’s good for their business.”
Market attendees agree.
“I really enjoy the camaraderie you get when you come to the Do it Best Market,” Marilyn Johnson, owner of Tiera Verde Do it Best Hardware in Tierra Verde, Florida, says. “It’s not just the vendors you can learn from, but the other owners who you meet and catch up with at the market. That part is really important.”
Connecting in Store and in Home
Opportunities abound at the market for retailers to connect to each other, and one new way was through the Connected Home, a mock home exhibit featuring four rooms in a home connected through an Amazon Alexa-enabled device.
“Each market, we feature an area that is trending and growing,” Rusk says. “At this market, that area is the Connected Home.”
This rapidly expanding spectrum of products like voice-activated lighting systems and thermostats that can be operated from a smartphone can be intimidating for consumers who don’t know where to begin to create their own connected homes. Retailers can enter the connected home market by being the experts to guide customers to the right solutions.
“We believe that the higher touch that comes with that technology is an area where our members can really excel,” Rusk says. “It does take more than just putting it on a shelf.”
Do it Best recognized the challenge of merchandising and selling connected home products that cut across categories. Merchandise managers from across those categories worked together to help group them in an efficient way for members.
“Retailers need to understand it in order to sell it, and they need to get comfortable with the technology,” Rusk says. “The Connected Home space is similar in approach to The Color Bar, which is the paint department concept we launched in the spring. There, it’s about selling a whole project, and it’s a little higher touch than just mixing a can of paint. The program is designed to increase customers’ confidence in the product they’re selecting.”
In order to build customers’ confidence in new products, the first step is developing retailer confidence. Demonstrations and opportunities to interact with products and vendors helps in that arena.
“The demonstrations you can see at the Do it Best market bring a lot of information and product knowledge, and you can then give that to your customers,” Sable Westover of J&H Hardware in Bellows Fall, Vermont, says. “It adds to your confidence when bringing these products back.”
Rusk says it’s important that members understand that Do it Best is a resource for them when they are exploring new products, programs and services.
“We are focused on making sure our members know that because when we are equipped with the right programs and services to help them, they are equipped,” Rusk says. “The retailer landscape is changing so dramatically, and we want members to recognize that they are still viable for their customers and to understand what makes them unique and what their differentiating factors are. We support that with our programs and services.”
Do it Best historically has helped retailers differentiate with its “menus not mandates” platform, which means it has programs and services to help retailers be successful, and it’s up to the retailer to decide what’s best for them.
“For our members, there are very few mandates, but we’ve moved some programs from a could to a should. It will always be a member’s choice, but we’re going to be coming to members and saying, these are things that you should be doing,” Rusk says. “In the spring, that should was The Color Bar. The Connected Home is the should that we’re launching at this market.”
Another program that Do it Best is recommending members take advantage of is the co-op’s digital marketing dashboard that will launch next year.
“We’re taking a broader approach to marketing and moving away from talking about advertising to really promoting consumer marketing,” Rusk says. “The digital dashboard allows members to be able to include Google AdWords, keyword buys and other digital marketing initiatives. It’s a big first step for members who haven’t yet explored the benefits of marketing in the digital world.”
The online platform is accessible from anywhere and shows members real-time impressions. The members who are currently testing the program have made 6.1 million consumer impressions through digital marketing programs, Rusk says.
“While we still see print, and it’s a powerful medium, there is a whole group of customers that retailers are missing if they aren’t engaged in digital marketing,” Rusk says. “It’s important to reduce the steps it takes for customers to be exposed to your brand, and we help make it a simple process for members to put their brand in front of their customers. If digital marketing seems overwhelming, complicated or expensive, we’ve put it all together for members in this affordable, easy to manage program.”