On a normal August day, the LBM Journal team and I would be doing double duty—working on the September magazine, and preparing to travel to the LBM Strategies Conference in late September. This year, the magazine part is the same, but instead of preparing to travel, our small-but-mighty team has been pivoting from an in-person conference to a virtual event. Without going into detail, suffice to say that it has been an adventure.
But we’re not alone. 2020 has been an adventure for everyone in our industry. Instead of a fun, “choose your own adventure,” it’s been the type in which we expect one thing (a healthy year for business) and are hit over the head with something completely unexpected (global pandemic). Then, once we’ve wrapped our minds around that reality and prepared for a major slowdown, the market defies all expectations and takes off—leaving price spikes and material shortages in its wake. And it’s not over yet. Who knows what surprises Q4 will bring?
From my perspective, one key takeaway has been the reaffirmation that our industry knows how to deal with a crisis. I talked with and heard from many dealers in March and April, and despite the thick cloud of uncertainty, there was decisive action. Dealers learned what was required and recommended by local and state authorities, followed CDC guidelines, and made the adaptations needed to serve their customers. It wasn’t without sacrifice or pain, but it was doing what was necessary. And that’s what our industry does.
Another takeaway from the adventure that is 2020 is how the pandemic has served as rocket fuel for e-commerce. The combination of online ordering capabilities and product delivery (ala Amazon) has made a material difference for LBM dealers who began the pandemic with e-commerce capabilities in place. We don’t know how soon COVID-19 will be in our rearview mirrors, but there’s no question that e-commerce has arrived. If you’re not currently selling online, I encourage you to talk with your co-op or buying group to learn what options they offer and talk with your software vendor to learn how to get started.
You may have noticed that the magazine/media landscape is changing. One longtime industry magazine ended its print edition earlier this year. Since we know (because you tell us) that 70% of you still prefer print, we continue to produce a robust print magazine. Meanwhile, we’re rapidly expanding our digital offerings to make sure we’re wherever you need us to be. One fun example of how we have one foot in actual reality and one in the virtual world is the 200-plus LBM Strategies welcome boxes shipped to registrants of our virtual conference—packed with autographed books from Kevin Hancock, Rikka Brandon, and Rick Davis, plus Starbucks gift cards and healthy snacks for breaks, and lots more.
I’ve no doubt that 2020 will be forever known as a case study in crisis management. And witnessing how you’ve responded, I’ve never been prouder to be a member of this industry.
– Rick Schumacher
Executive Editor & Publisher