The 2018 Do it Best Spring Market focused on programs and products that help independent home improvement retailers operate strong businesses in today’s market.
The market, May 18-21 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, gave retailers from throughout the co-op’s member base an opportunity to explore programs that have launched throughout the last year. Overall, the company says it’s focused on growth across the board and is optimistic about the industry.
“There is a lot going on in the independent industry right now,” says Do it Best Corp. president and CEO Dan Starr. “We’re bullish and confident in not only the co-op model, but independents in America and in the industry.”
The co-op reports a record number of prospective members at the market, which it attributes to growth in the industry and in the company specifically.
“We’ve got a great stable of prospective members after a very strong year of growth in new members,” Starr says. “We have yet another strong market where we’re welcoming new members who are excited about that growth.”
Supporting Growth Across Categories
Do it Best reports success with The Color Bar, a paint category program that launched at last year’s spring market. Within that time, the co-op says its members who have implemented the program have seen sales increases.
“You can drive traffic with paint,” Starr says. “The Color Bar helps our members become real destinations for the category. This program is about making sure our members are set up to compete and win in paint. Additionally, having a strong paint department can lend itself to growth in other areas of the store.”
Some members are still in the planning stages of implementing The Color Bar, but they see the value in it.
Owner of Delaune’s Do it Center in Prairieville, Louisiana, Denny Delaune, says he is planning the logistics to put the program in his store, which will require a reset.
“We have some customers who don’t realize we have paint,” he says. “The Color Bar gives a newness and a freshness to the category that we appreciate. We’re thinking it will help us drive traffic into the store.”
At this market, there were several new vendors, and the co-op says continuing to expand partnerships helps members differentiate their product and brand selection.
“We are continuing to work with really high-quality vendors that members know their customers love, trust and respect,” Rusk says. “The market provides an opportunity for our members to see those things and own categories to set themselves apart from the competition.”
Taking On Technology
A product area that has grown significantly throughout the home improvement sector is smart home. To help support independents’ foray into the broad category, Do it Best launched The Connected Home at the 2017 fall market. The program combines smart products from across categories into their own category, which helps members see how to merchandise them together and learn all the capabilities at once.
“We’ve brought back The Connected Home at this market,” says director of communications Randy Rusk. “It continues to be an active product area. As consumer awareness and experience with smart technology expands, that becomes a category that our members’ customers will have more familiarity with.”
Rusk says the goal with The Connected Home is to help members demystify the category and give them the tools to answer customers’ basic questions.
“Smart home can be a unique traffic driver,” he says. “Once people get past the novelty factor of some of the products, there are a lot of practical reasons why it makes sense. The bar to entry is low and the opportunity is high.”
In addition to product-focused technology opportunities, Do it Best continues to expand operational initiatives that help its members navigate behind the scenes. One of those initiatives that launched in the fall was the Digital Dashboard, a central hub for members’ digital advertising ventures.
“We built a system that brings everything together in a graphically intensive format,” Starr says. “It combines Best Rewards data, email, social media and other digital marketing to get more content out to customers who may not be in the circular territory. It also helps our members gauge ROI on advertising, which is something that is difficult to determine with print.”
While the program is still new, Starr says co-op members who were already engaged in digital advertising say it’s valuable to have everything they were doing in one place.
“For members who are really into it, they’ll take it as a foundation. For others, it’s a starting point for those who haven’t been in the digital world,” he says.
Another operations initiative is the co-op’s sales tracking program.
“We launched a data-driven tool called Winning the Weeks That Matter in the Ways That Matter. It gathers shopper data through our loyalty program and POS sales to better advise our members-owners about the key weeks that are specific to their store and their region,” Starr says. “It helps make sure we’re matching those sales periods to the right kinds of integrated marketing to drive that business.”
Starr says Father’s Day will be a big opportunity to utilize that data.
“It’s not entirely new that you would try to approach prospective customers in advance of that holiday, but this program helps gather those footsteps and turn them into shopper behavior,” he says.
Members are noticing the opportunities they have through the co-op. The market offers a great place to learn more about what’s new and to see other retailers.
“I really like some of the newer programs,” says Zach Coblentz of Hartville Hardware in Hartville, Ohio. “I usually come to at least one market, if not both every year to see what’s new. It’s also a great opportunity to visit with other members and Do it Best representatives.”
Investing in Education
Do it Best recognizes the challenges that independent retailers have in finding valuable long-term talent to staff their stores. The co-op has prioritized education and training and wants to help young people and retail professionals see the independent home improvement industry as a career option.
“We are always working on programs, services and training and marketing tools that our members can use to attract talent,” Rusk says.
An example is the LBM School the co-op hosted at its headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in March. The school gave 60 students who were newcomers to the LBM industry hands-on training.
“We got such high demand that it continued to grow,” Rusk says. “It’s a very hands-on program and it’s as personalized as possible.”
The co-op says it plans to host another class next spring. Registration information will be available at the fall market.
This spring market is one of the last to be held in May. In 2020, Do it Best spring markets will transition to February and will remain in Indianapolis.