Do it Best, the Fort Wayne, Ind.-based co-op, recently promoted long-time company executive Steve Markley to vp-merchandising. Markley, who previously served as division merchandise manager for home/hardware, electrical, export and commercial/industrial, replaced Jay Brown, who in July was promoted to the role of vp-retail development.
Markley has a lot of experience to draw on for his new position. In addition to managing four departments, he was responsible for the creation of Do it Best’s global sourcing division and last year oversaw the opening of buying offices in mainland China and Hong Kong. All told, he has 24 years of industry experience, including three tours with Do it Best and positions in the vendor community and as a manufacturer’s representative.
CEO Bob Taylor praised Markley’s diverse background and ability to help members. “His exposure to Do it Best goes back a long way, and it’s nice to have another person on our leadership team with that history,” Taylor said.
Home Channel News spoke to Markley about his new role and his plans for the co-op, which include strengthening the supply chain and enhancing member/owner services. He believes his experiences in all phases of the business will help him keep Do it Best’s 4,100 members competitive in terms of retail pricing and brand versus private label strategizing.
HCN: How would you characterize the co-op’s merchandising philosophy, and will you make any changes in this regard?
Markley: There won’t be any major changes. We’re going to continue to work things aggressively, as we’ve always done, and keep our numbers competitive and profitable. We operate with integrity when talking about our suppliers or member/owners. We do have some internal enhancements that we’re doing. We’re working to strengthen our supply chain, and our vendor Extranet is being enhanced, including some new phases rolling out later this year.
HCN: How did your previous position as division merchandise manager prepare you for your new role?
Markley: I’d go even beyond the most immediate position I held. My experience with the company goes back to a full-time summer job I held many years ago. I’ve had several roles here—as well as outside Do it Best—so I understand what goes into the business from the ground up. My strength is my perspective on how to go about things. I’m familiar with the staff, vendors and members. I’m familiar with dealing with global sourcing and the supply chain—in terms of what we’re doing, where we want to go and how we want to get there.
HCN: As the person responsible for creating Do it Best’s global sourcing department, how important would you say it is for today’s hardlines distributor to have a strong presence in Asia?
Markley: I think it’s important to have the ability to go directly to those sources if we feel that’s the right thing to do in a particular category. Our preferred method is if a vendor will take us with them, we’ll buy overseas from them. However, that is often not the case, so it’s important to be able to be competitive at retail. It’s all about being able to supply members with the right margins on each product. Our members are competing with Wal-Mart and other big retailers every day, and we need to give them the means to compete.
HCN: What is the importance of carrying the big brand names? How does that mesh with your assortment of internationally sourced items?
Markley: We evaluate brands with every line review that we do. We don’t have any kind of strategy to deemphasize the national brand. In fact, we have many categories where the national brand is preferred. But sometimes brand names mean more to people in the industry—to our members—than they do to consumers. We evaluate every category individually.
HCN: You had your first job working summers at Do it Best, returned in the mid-1980s and are now on your third tour with the company. What is it about Do it Best that keeps you coming back?
Markley: This company is not just about a slogan, or a mission statement on paper. Everyone actually believes our members come first, and that thought process is imprinted on everything we do—day in and day out. We’re strong financially and are the fastest growing of the co-ops. And we have a great culture here, a great group of staff members to work with every day. Roll all of that together, and there’s something very compelling about the Do it Best environment.