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Dealer of the Year: Nabors Home Center: A family-owned company stays ready to adapt

Like many in the LBM industry today, Lee Nabors has spent much of his life around lumber and hardware stores. Now as a third generation owner of Nabors Home Center, Nabors still has fond memories of growing up in his family’s store.

“As a child I can remember I would get my toys off the hardware truck, a baseball bat or a bicycle or skateboard or whatever. It would come off the hardware truck and I can remember being there waiting on the truck runs to get my toy. The aroma of the van when it pulled up and we’d open the door…I can still remember that smell.”

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Founded in 1962 in Vardaman, Mississippi, Nabors Home Center—known then as Nabors Hardware—was started by Lee’s grandfather, who passed down ownership of the store to Lee’s father in 1969, who in turn passed it to Lee in the 90’s after he retired.

Now with his wife, Millette, and his five sons, Nabors continues his family’s legacy in Houston, Mississippi, offering everything from lumber and building materials to power tools, hardware, and home goods. With revenues of just under $25 million last year, the company is focused on creating incremental growth while preparing for any future uncertainties in the industry.

Steady growth
Since its founding, Nabors Home Center has grown to include three additional stores in central and northeast Mississippi in Eupora, Amory, and Ackerman. Nabors said the store’s business breaks down to a nearly 50/50 split between pro and retail customers. But regardless of the type, he said he’s always happy to see his regulars and to welcome newcomers, whether it be a casual DIYer or a homeowner coming in with a host of issues, as seen following tornadoes in the region or during the winter storms from earlier this year.

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Nabors Home Center carries a wide inventory for flooring, roofing, tiling, siding, and decks, as well as molding, millwork, windows, and doors. The company is also a certified Stihl dealer, in addition to its rental center.

The business has been through a lot in Nabors’ three decades of ownership, although the major market fluctuations seen by many in the last 15 years have been tempered by his stores’ locations.

“Store to store, it’s been steady. In our last acquisition, we took a store that was doing just under $2 million and grew it to almost $8 million, and that is the fuel for a lot of the growth. But all of our stores are in rural markets, and in the rural markets, we don’t necessarily see the highs. But on the good side, we don’t see the big lows.”

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However, a major aspect of Nabors’ growth has been the company’s partnership with Do it Best. The store joined the member-owned co- op under his father’s ownership in the 1980s.

“Do it Best is a great company, I highly recommend it,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough to serve on the board of directors, and that’s quite an honor. If you do what Do it Best says, you’ll be successful.” Nabors said the partnership, specifically the Best Rewards program, has also helped the business compete against big box stores. The program allows customers to rack up points on purchases that they can use towards future purchases.

“I had a customer the other day, a contractor customer that had $750 in rewards. That was the biggest one I’ve seen. So he bought items that he wanted, not just items that he needed. The rewards program has been phenomenal, and it just drives customers back to the store.”

Do it Best has also been instrumental in one of the business’ biggest challenges: the rise in online shopping. The company has invested significantly in ecommerce through the guidance of COO Jackie Strong, creating a space for online shopping and options for in-store pick- up. The company is “married” to Epicor, and utilizes their Eagle POS software, as well as Margin Master through Do it Best.

“We are committed to ecommerce. We’re committed to putting our inventory and pricing online so that our customers can shop the way they prefer.”

Staying flexible
Nabors said one aspect of his overall business strategy has been to stay ready to adapt, a tack that has served the company through the ups and downs over the last several years. He said that can look like jumping on an opportunity when it arises, but also being able to let it go when it no longer serves the long-term plans for Nabors Home Center.

“We were exiting the Great Recession of 2008, and we opened a concrete batch plant, and that was very successful for many years. However, we did sell that plant last year; it was just the right time to get out of that business. It wasn’t part of our growth strategy.”

The company is slated to announce an additional acquisition later this year, an achievement Nabors credits to his team for creating an environment workers want to stay in.

“Our team makes the difference and we just created a culture within our business that has lasted for a long time and it continues to get better year in, year out,” he said. “We hold true to our mission statement and our core values, and we’ve done a fabulous job for a long time holding true to those values. Very few people leave once they become a team member.”

However, Nabors said he recognizes there are challenges ahead for the industry, namely the changing workforce.

“The younger generation wants flexibility. They value their personal time off. And in order to make that happen, we have to go to our mission statement which is ‘Work together as a team to best serve our customers.’”

Nabors said what concerns him more is the projected shortage of builders coming into the industry. “There’s going to be a shortage of quality builders that are learning the trade, and it’s going to be an uphill battle for quite some time,” he said. “The local community colleges are seeing the problem, seeing the need. And they’re on it, but we’re just a little late. We got a lot of catching up to do.”

Regardless of the challenges the future may bring, Nabors remains determined for Nabors Home Center to meet them head-on.

“The next big thing might be another tornado. It may be a major industry opening in our area. And you always need to be ready for it. And when I say ‘ready,’ I’m not meaning just having the inventory, but having your fleet ready, having your people ready, your infrastructure. When something hits and you’re not ready, then you’re behind.”

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