Hardware Retailing

MAY 2018

Hardware Retailing magazine is the pre-eminent how-to management magazine for small business owners and managers in the home improvement retailing industry.

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HARDWARE RETAILING | May 2018 74 Shell Lumber's off-site storage and ability to quickly resupply through its distribution center allows it to maintain a strong back-stock in needed materials, but not all retailers can be so prepared year-round. Tornadoes don't often have the courtesy of signaling their intentions beforehand. When Joplin was hit in 2011, Herrman Lumber store manager Brian Lewis returned to a store with no roof and no power. Demand for tarps, plastic floor mats and generators quickly rose to untenable levels, so Lewis relied on his close relationships with vendors to get materials into the area. Wholesalers can also be helpful in establishing supply lines before a crisis. Lewis recommends that retailers take particular care to keep themselves loaded with their staples, even when a disaster isn't looming. Because Herrman Lumber is already heavily invested in roofing, a freak hailstorm in 2017 didn't deplete its stock even as roofing needs skyrocketed for homeowners. "If you're known for a certain product or service, make sure it's always on hand and you can't be caught off guard," Lewis says. "As far as vendors, that's also a long-term plan that becomes most important after a disaster. The choices you make months before about who you're sourcing from will pay off or be a real problem once the storm hits." When rebuilding starts, the supply chain for lumberyards can be particularly taxed in regards to commonly needed lumber and construction supplies. For example, Shell Lumber stocked up on drywall after seeing the destruction from Hurricane Harvey, Ruark says. Lewis has seen sheet rock and roofing supply costs increase after disasters far away from Joplin, and Herrman Lumber has looked to alter its buying strategies accordingly. Natural disasters and the subsequent rebuilding phase can alter the industrywide outlook for pricing and buying, Ruark says, but many issues can be mitigated by regional suppliers. The industry as a whole has learned to make adjustments over the years as well. "Even without building booms after storms, we're always in the commodity market with our products. There are always changes, and storms can alter buying strategies in the short term so you have to be prepared to change course," Ruark says. "Long-term plans are easier to keep on track because the industry has gotten so good at logistics. One way retailers can assist communities after a natural disaster is by offering services or items that few other businesses can offer. Hayward Lumber in Santa Barbara, California, offered a local zoo its fleet of trucks if it needed to evacuate animals due to forest fires. " There are always changes, and storms can alter buying strategies in the short term so you have to be prepared to change course. " —John Ruark, Shell Lumber & Hardware

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