For Wheelwright Lumber Co. president Paul Wheelwright, the key to his store’s success for 121 years has been doing a few things really well and sticking to some core principles.
“We have always been known for great service, and our delivery times are always within two to three hours for local deliveries,” he said. “I always try to buy the best quality of materials. For example, all of our 2x8s, 2x10s and 2x12s are select structural grade instead of #2&btr. Our studs are #2&Btr or premium, instead of stud grade. These things develop loyal customers.”
Wheelwright knows that a satisfied customer can turn into a loyal customer for years, if not generations. He has witnessed it at his Ogden, Utah-based store. “ I believe that people like to do business with local companies. We have been in the area for over a hundred years,” Wheelwright said. “We’ve been good to our customers, and they have been good to us.”
Excellent customer service and quality materials are not the only factors that have sustained this dealer for so many years. Wheelwright also believes in these core principles:
• Carry very little debt.
• Pay off everything during the good times, and that will get you through the bad times.
• Own everything.
• Lease nothing — it is much cheaper when things are slow.
• Keep your best people.
“I think we’ve done these things well,” he said.
Wheelwright’s business has withstood — even thrived at times — during the long downturn, in part by shifting its focus from a largely pro-oriented focus to more of a DIY destination. Its 12,000-sq.-ft. sales floor, part of a large renovation several years ago, is more than double that of the old location. Consequently, Wheelwright said his store has seen an influx of DIY customers that it never experienced at the old store, where 95% of its customer base was pro. “Business has increased considerably, which is a pleasant surprise in this downturn,” he said.
When Wheelwright entered into a wholesaler partnership with Orgill seven years ago, Wheelwright was in the process of building a new, more expansive store. Using Orgill’s Market Driven Retailing (MDR) process, Wheelwright was able to devise a product assortment and pricing structure necessary to be competitive. “I used to have customers coming in and asking if I could match the big-box price that was often much lower than ours,” Wheelwright said. “But I don’t get that anymore, especially on price-sensitive items. In some cases, we’re even a few dollars less. Our retail business has increased two to three times in sales as a result.”
In August 2004, Wheelwright Lumber relocated to its brand-new facility on 6.5 acres, a property that houses a larger store and door shop, a warehouse with 20,000 sq. ft., as well as a rail spur to bring in quality lumber products by the carload.
Wheelwright said the Orgill reps routinely walk his store looking for ideas, such as new merchandising sets. “They don’t merely order the sets and go home, they help put it together with us,” he said. “They are with us every step of the way. It has been a very good partnership.”