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Timing and distributor relationships matter when selecting new products

I mentioned in last month’s column that I’m skipping this year’s local home and garden winter shows. I have a number of reasons for doing so, which you can read in the January 2019 issue of LBM Journal. However, that doesn’t mean I’m missing out on the world’s biggest annual industry gathering—the International Builder’s Show, held this year in Las Vegas. In fact, by the time this issue hits your desk you will likely either hear from some industry contacts who are at this year’s IBS or will be learning and networking at the show yourself.

While there is a lot of buzz (and rightfully so) around all the new products being introduced at the show, most dealers already know going in whether or not these products will be on their show floors when deck and outdoor living season rolls around in a couple months. Why is that? Because most dealers have already made their purchases for this coming season. Months ago distributors approached us with winter buy deals and we took advantage of that special pricing to stock our warehouse and place our distributor orders for the summer building season. For many of us, we’ve already planned out our showrooms and we used slow time during the winter and holiday season to update our show floor displays to prepare to sell the latest products, featuring new technologies and color trends.

Because of the lag in timing between winter buying and planning season and product releases at IBS, a strong distributor and manufacturer relationship is essential to making sure your showroom is stocked with the latest products. Often times, even though a product’s official unveiling will occur at IBS in mid-to-late winter, a good manufacturer rep will let you know about it ahead of time and will encourage you to set aside space on your showroom for the product. For example, at The Deck Store, we’ve set up displays that we’ve kept under wraps until the official release of the product, or we’ve built displays with room to grow to accommodate a new sample product when it is released. This isn’t always the most convenient way for a dealer to set up a showroom, and it involves a trusting relationship between manufacturer, distributor, and dealer, but done right, it allows for the latest products to get in front of consumers at just the right time of building season.

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Even if you have your showroom completely set up be- cause you have a great relationship with the manufacturers you carry, that shouldn’t stop you from taking in all the new products at IBS, where you’ll find the latest and greatest available in decking, deck accessories, outdoor living, and everything else you’ll want to stock at your lumberyard. But what do you do with all your newfound love for these new products that you didn’t get a chance to hear about ahead of time? Well, don’t forget them, for one thing. Be sure to make note of all of the products that caught your attention at IBS and talk to your area distributors to make sure they’re available in your market.

Once you’ve made the decision to carry the products, and if there is still time to make adjustments to your showroom, there may be a way to get the products on the floor yet for this season. If the product is from a familiar manufacturer, you may be able to convince them to do a buy-back of your current inventory so that you can stock the latest product. But it’s more likely that you’ve already accounted for showroom space and inventory turn time, and don’t have room for a new product right now. If that is the case, be sure to develop a relationship with the manufacturer and distributor of the product you want to carry. Getting to the top of their contacts list will allow you to secure product knowledge in advance of next year’s round of home shows and will help to secure your position as a product trend-leader in your market.

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