For the first time in many years, members and guests attended the Do it Best Spring Market in February at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. Three years ago, the co-op announced it would be transitioning both of its annual markets from May and October to February and September in response to member feedback.
The new time of year was just the start of new opportunities retailers found at this market. The snow flurries over the weekend didn’t hamper the flurry of activity inside the market, where retailers explored educational sessions and discovered options in core assortments and brand new products.
Moving the spring market to February opened up opportunities to many retailers, including Bill Cobb, owner of Cincinnatus Home Center in Cincinnatus, New York.
“We only used to come once a year in the fall,” Cobb says. “We’re here looking for new products and see what opportunities are available to get product in time for spring.”
Do it Best gave retailers the tools they needed to plan ahead of the market as the buying strategy changed for many attendees. Retailers can now attend the spring market looking ahead to summer and fall.
One tool that helps retailers plan is the Market Savings Builder. This resource allows retailers to access market specials, new items, discounted items and much more so they can complete their orders before they arrive in Indianapolis.
Russel Do it Center general manager Kirby Scales says using the Market Savings Builder gives him more time to see what’s at the market instead of checking off all the must-order items.
“We have a chance to buy summer product now that the market is in February,” Scales says. “And the Market Savings Builder takes a lot of stress off, so my orders are ready and I can explore new products and do more impulse buying while I’m here.”
The Core of the Market
Product research is a key reason retailers attend the market, and Do it Best has created areas to help attendees discover new opportunities.
“Everything we do at the market is centered around improving the customer experience,” says Do it Best director of communications Randy Rusk. “When it comes to the customer experience with products, we want to help our members discover the key differentiators for their trading area.
Returning to this market are the Launch Zone and the New Item Gallery. The Launch Zone features products that are brand new to the industry, and retailers can get comprehensive demonstrations from vendors. The New Item Gallery showcases products that are new to the Do it Best warehouse, and they are often graduates from the previous market’s Launch Zone.
“At the last several markets, many vendors have become popular with members and they have since graduated to the market floor,” Rusk says.
Another key area of the market is Core Solutions, a space that premiered last year at the fall market. This area provides retailers a complete category setup so they can see what a category might look like in a home center setting. At this market, Core Solutions featured 5,000 square of hand and power tools.
“We’ve had members come to us and ask, ‘When you tell me I should improve assortments, what does that look like?’ Core Solutions is our answer to that question,” Rusk says. “We want to show our members how they can be dominant in these categories.”
While Core Solutions is presented as an option for members, and they can use any part of the display, Rusk says many retailers have asked how they can replicate the entire setup in their stores.
“The market gives us a chance to bring to life the best of all we do,” Rusk says. “Core Solutions is a great example of that. It’s a buying opportunity for members as well as a way to learn merchandising best practices.”
Also new at this market is a broader approach to educational offerings. Rusk says retailers have always come to the markets to take hands-on core category sessions or attend operations-focused seminars.
“Historically, we had Education Day on Friday before the market,” Rusk says. “Members have been requested training throughout the weekend, so at this market, we’re launching Knowledge Central. By spreading it throughout the weekend, attendees have more opportunities to attend more sessions.”
Knowledge Central retained operations seminars from experts, on concepts from communication in the workplace to social media management. In addition to these seminars, Knowledge Central also featured spaces on the market floor. Retailers attended hands-on project seminars in the Event Marketing Hub to get ideas for events they could host in their own stores. From kids’ crafts to ladies’ nights and contractor events, the concepts served as inspiration for retailers to appeal to their broad customer base.
Returning to this market were the workshops for in-depth category training in plumbing and electrical and construction.
“Construction Instruction is designed to give insight into everything that goes into construction,” Rusk says. “The need for education is so strong in that segment of the industry, and our members are looking to us to help build their team. This program helps attendees put the pieces together to improve service and grow add-on sales.”
Do it Best offers training solutions after the market, too, which were highlighted in president and CEO Dan Starr’s market kickoff presentation on Friday afternoon.
Two weeklong programs are available through the co-op that solve two unique challenges in the industry. The Lumber School is a hands-on training program that gives knowledge and skills to new lumberyard workers. The program takes place in early March every year.
The Leadership Development Institute has two sessions each year, in the spring and fall. This program is geared toward managers to further develop their skills and knowledge as leaders in their operations.
Mike French, yard manager at PC Lumber & Hardware, enrolled in the program last fall, and initially he was skeptical about what he could gain. He completed the program with a renewed vision, ready to send more of his employees through the program.
He attended the market for the first time this weekend, and he saw it as an opportunity to connect with people he usually only sees in the yard.
“I’m not the one in charge of the ordering, but I work with these vendors every day, so this is a great place to connect with them,” he says.