This week, Handy Hardware welcomed retailers and manufacturers to its first buying market since Littlejohn & Co., a Connecticut-based investment firm, acquired the Texas-based distributor out of bankruptcy.
The Fall Buying Market is taking place in San Antonio and runs from Aug. 15-17.
Hardware Retailing was on hand for the event and had the opportunity to speak with Doug Miller, Handy’s new CEO.
Hardware Retailing (HR): So how do you think the Market is going so far?
Doug Miller: Every customer and every vendor I have spoken with so far seems to be really pleased with the Market, and on top of that, they are telling us they are pleased overall with the improvements they have been seeing at Handy.
HR: You worked at Jensen Distribution for more than 45 years and actually came out of retirement to take over as CEO at Handy. What drove that decision for you?
DM: First, I love this business and I guess I just wasn’t ready to be retired. But there were really three factors that made the decision easy for me.
One, when I visited with a number of Handy customers to test the waters, I found out that they were an extremely loyal customer base and were very dedicated to seeing Handy succeed so they could keep doing business with them.
Two, the vendor support has been tremendous. I’ve been around this industry for a lot of years and knew a lot of folks in the vendor community. I heard a lot of positive comments from them about how willing they were to support Handy.
Lastly, in my talks with the team at Littlejohn, they were nothing but supportive and committed to doing whatever was necessary to make Handy a stronger company.
HR: What are the first things you will address now that you are CEO?
DM: It really comes down to doing the things day to day that we need to do to be a better distributor—doing the basics right. The first thing on that list was getting our fill rates up, and I am pleased to say we have done that.
I know that for us to succeed, we have to be as good or better than our competition in areas like service levels, on-time delivery, error-free delivery and competitive pricing. So those are the areas we are addressing.
HR: What changes do you feel are required to improve in these areas?
DM: Well there are not going to be any radical changes in the short term.
Instead, we want to address the operational things like getting our customers to implement Distribution America’s pricing models to help them be more competitive with their pricing at retail and help ensure they aren’t leaving any margin opportunities out there. We are hiring a pricing analyst to help in this process.
I also want to go through our expenses and find ways we can be more efficient. Most of that will be on the operational side.
But we also need to make some investments in our systems and to increase the size of our sales force.
I think our overall goals are to increase our top line sales while lowering our cost of doing business.
HR: How will you determine which areas you want to focus on for improvement?
DM: I am a very facts and figures based person so we need to take a good, hard look at the numbers and make sure we are getting the data we need to really do a thorough analysis of all our systems and procedures. That’s a big part of the process.
HR: What message would you like retailers and vendors to know about Handy?
DM: Handy is financially strong and our goal is distribution excellence. We want to be the distributor of choice for customers in the southeastern United States.