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Look who’s in charge

The Pro Dealer Industry Scoreboard command center here at 425 Park Ave. was humming with the sound of survey submissions when the editors noticed something interesting.

Several respondents were answering a simple question about corporate structure as if it were a profound inquiry into corporate culture.

The simple question was: “Who’s in charge?”

And the unexpected — but in retrospect — perfectly reasonable answer we saw again and again was: “The customer.”

Maybe there’s a connection between the enthusiasm or discipline or salesmanship in that answer and the ability of the Top 200 to generate a combined 6.4% increase in sales compared with the previous year.

The first 100 companies — from ABC Supply to Barr Lumber — are listed on pages 16 and 17. The full list of the 200 leading lumberyards and building material dealers is available at Homechannelnews.com. It’s free. All you have to do is register.

In addition to a combined sales gain, companies on the Pro Dealer Industry Scoreboard showed a strong ratio of sales gainers over sales decliners. Using data based on actual reported 2011 sales figures (as opposed to HCN estimates), 70% showed growth compared with only 8% that did so two short years ago.

You’ve probably been trying to forget this, but remember that 2011 was the weakest year on record for single-family housing starts, which for years have been the bread and butter of the typical pro dealer. Construction of new homes was the lowest since the government began keeping track in 1959, and yet, the Top 200 as a group moved in the right direction.

How did this happen? Many reasons. During downturns, a strong-get-stronger principle takes effect. Weaker players exit markets, expanding opportunities for former competitors. And consolidation or acquisitions boosts the top line of the top 200. Pricing, of course, is a factor, lifting all boats. For instance, the NAICS 4441 category of retailer — building material and supplies dealers — saw a 3.0% sales increase in 2011. Even at the big box, the building materials category at Lowe’s in 2011 showed the biggest percentage increase of all the retailer’s 17 merchandise categories.

All this tells you something else: Somebody is doing a lot of remodeling.

As builders changed gears throughout the downturn, the best suppliers were right there with them, supporting them and anticipating their needs. In that spirit, Home Channel News invited five forward-thinking lumberyard and building material executives to share their thoughts in a kind of remodeling roundtable. 

Listening to the customer drives success on the Industry Scoreboard. And we believe it is crucial to our success as a media company. Home Channel News recently undertook a reader survey, the results of which have already sent us down the road to improvement. (More on that later.) You can still take the survey at HCN.com. Or just tell us how we’re doing. You’re in charge.

kclark@homechannelnews.com

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