A lot has changed since I joined this industry back in 1990. Back then, it was estimated that there were more than 6,000 separate LBM companies, many of which had multiple locations. Today, following decades of consolidation and the closings in the wake of the black hole that was the Great Recession, the consensus number is less than half of that. If our economy maintains its momentum through July 2019, the U.S. economy will establish a new record for the longest period of economic expansion in history. The slow, steady growth that began under Obama and has accelerated under Trump has brought our industry back from catastrophic lows to a sustained high that has many LBM companies enjoying record sales and profits.
Challenges remain, of course. Many of these, like rising prices for materials compounded by spiking transportation rates and persistent labor shortages, are tough problems with no easy solutions. The fact is that the industry we’ve chosen is not easy. It never has been, and it never will be. That you’re reading this, and I’m writing it, means that we’re survivors. And if I’ve learned anything over the past quarter century, it’s that the people determined that their businesses thrive—not just survive—are those who know that they don’t have all the answers. But they know where to look.
This coming February 19-21, many of these dealers will be in Las Vegas for the International Builders’ Show (IBS). If you’ve not attended IBS in the past because you think it’s just for builders, think again. In fact, dealers are second only to builders when it comes to attendance at this annual industry event. From my perspective, as someone who hasn’t missed an IBS for more than 20 years, there is no better place to experience and learn about the latest products from leading manufacturers.
A few tips: First, NAHB offers complimentary registration for dealers during September, so I encourage you to visit BuildersShow.com and lock in your free registration today. Second, book your hotel early for best prices and selection. Third, since there are more than 1,500 exhibitors covering more than 500,000 square feet of exhibit space, be prepared to do a lot of walking.
In the meantime, industry leaders from across the U.S. (like Jim Sobeck, from New South Construction Supply on this month’s cover) will be gathering in Philadelphia at the LBM Strategies Conference, September 19-21. I hope to see you there.