Question 2

Sales typically slow during the winter months for companies in the construction supply business. With winter just around the corner, describe how your company is adjusting its expenditures (e.g., sales force and yard help) to offset lower sales. Or is it full steam ahead?

The Responses

“All overtime goes away, lots of projects around the properties get done. We push for winter vacations.”

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“I am not planning on participating in any slow down. Full steam ahead!”

“Hours are adjusted somewhat lower from late November into March. The depth of hours reduced depends greatly on the pulse of activity and sales numbers. While it’s not a tremendous selling season, the winter provides a great opportunity for the sales team to be in front of their customer with product presentations and proposals to ensure they maintain the customers’ confidence heading into the new year.”

“Fix the tractor. Mend the fences. Buy the seed. Study the journals. Do what we can to keep people busy and productive.”

“We’re located in northern Michigan, so seasonal adjustments to inventory and store/yard help are something that we are used to. On inventory, we work to not run out, but to have lower quantities until special winter or show pricing starts. Then we start building inventory for the next year.

“On store/yard staffing, we do a rotating layoff where most of our employees have a layoff of two weeks, but on a rotating schedule, so everyone gets a little time off from work. This reduces our labor force but gives most of our staff a break from work that most of them actually look forward to.”

“We slim down on employee hours and allow inventory levels to decline. Be aggressive on special orders!”

“Preparation is the key during winter months. Instead of looking at the slowdown as a negative, I try to look for the positives that will prepare us to perform when May rolls back around. Winter is a tremendous time to groom new employees, organize the yard, tighten up processes and create pipelines or paths to sales success.”

“I start thinking about winter with our outside sales folks in the summer. It is easy for everyone to get caught up in the dayto- day when business is good. I emphasize getting outside the box of normal and calling on someone new. Our sales folks hear me say, ‘Think three months down the road’ a lot. If we perform today and prepare for tomorrow, winter will not be a problem.”

“We layoff support personnel as sales begin to decline.”

“We keep a pretty lean inventory and turn it rapidly. I watch seasonal merchandise and don’t overstock. I try to find out what work, if any, our customers have lined up for upcoming months, and purchase based on their projected needs. Other than that, it is business as usual.”