Launching a series of interviews with key wholesaler execs this year, Editor Chris Jensen interviewed Orgill President and CEO Boyden Moore.
1. How has Orgill and its retail customers weathered the pandemic so far and in what ways has this made the company and its retailers stronger for the future?
The challenges that the pandemic presented last year has definitely strengthened business at our customers and Orgill. As people spent more time at home and less money on dining, entertainment and travel they spent more in our industry investing in their homes. Orgill’s sales were up 21 percent last year, over $3 billion for the first time. The sustained extraordinary demand in our industry required new ways for us to expand our capacity and also accelerated the adoption of eCommerce and curbside pickup. Additionally, the unpredictable environment the pandemic presented required incredible adaptability and agility to be successful. We found that these challenges also strengthened our relationships with our customers, our vendors and throughout our teams. That may be the best way the pandemic made us stronger for the future.
2. E-commerce capability, BOPIS and curbside pickup service have all taken on increased importance during the pandemic. How ready was Orgill for these challenges, how have you stepped up your efforts in these areas and how have Orgill retailers embraced these retail programs?
We launched a semi-annual eCommerce symposium in 2017 with less than a dozen of our customers who wanted to work with us to see if we could leverage a better solution for eCommerce by working together. We used our own CNRG stores to test three different solutions in a live environment in 2017 and shared those results with everyone in subsequent symposiums. Working with our customers, we developed and introduced our Integrated eCommerce program in 2018. It is unique in the industry in that it provides data for ALL of a retailer’s stocked items, whether we supply them or not, customized to the retailer’s brand and assortment. It is integrated to the retailer’s point-of-sale system and matches local pricing and inventory availability in real time. We added functionality in 2020 to support curbside pickup initiatives and improving the interface with store operations. The program has been growing fast and now drives eCommerce for almost 600 stores and is being implemented in many more. Last week we held our eighth eCommerce Symposium with over 300 attendees participating in the two-day event. Many of our early adopters shared success stories, lessons learned and best practices to help others navigate their path to eCommerce success. It’s a lot of fun innovating with this incredible group of industry leaders.
3. 2020 was a challenging year for the industry’s supply chain. What are some of the steps you have taken to address this and when do you anticipate all of Orgill’s distribution centers being back to normal fill rates?
It was an incredibly challenging year for the supply chain. Our Operations and Logistics team did a phenomenal job increasing the capacity of what we could do with our current distribution network by adding 2nd shifts, working weekends and hiring almost 1,000 people in our distribution centers just since June. In addition, we effectively accelerated our construction timeline to open a new 800,000-square-foot distribution center in Rome, N.Y., that was originally planned to open in Spring 2022. We’ll begin shipping out of it now before midyear 2021. It’s amazing to think that we began moving dirt in April and had the building completed before snow began to fall in winter all in the midst of a pandemic. This additional capacity will have an impact throughout our entire network in addition to driving more efficiency and faster response times in the Northeast.
Our merchants are working with our vendors on recovery. Interestingly, only 30 of our approximately 1,700 vendors make up 50 percent of our line cuts. We are experiencing sustained slow improvement and continued extraordinary demand in January. We believe the current pace of improvement will continue through the first quarter.
4. It’s hard to operate a wholesale company when you can’t meet face-to-face with your retail customers and vendors. Explain your new approach to shows, buying events and dealer education going forward and why you felt this approach was necessary.
We were actually very fortunate to be able to host one of the last industry events before the pandemic impacted our ability to gather with our dealer market last February. It was a great event, and gave us the most time possible to plan for our first online event in August. We named our Fall online buying event “eVolution,” as we expected that the lessons we learned in executing our first online buying event would transform the way we think about all events going forward. At this first event, we focused on the online buying experience and delivering the special buying opportunities that our customers depend upon. Our sales team really engaged with our customers and helped ensure that the process was as easy as possible for our customers. eVolution was very successful, breaking all records for participation and sales by a large margin.
As we approach our upcoming online buying event, February 8-19, we’re excited to introduce some enhancements to the online buying event including easy-to-use ordering tools for multi-location dealers, enhanced features for dropship ordering and expanded communication options between our dealers, reps and vendors. Additionally, we’ve also launched Orgill Distance Learning in January where we’re delivering the seminars, educational events and eCommerce Symposium via Zoom. It has been very well received with over 2,000 unique attendees in the first two weeks.
We’re also working on some other new ideas for the future that this pandemic has made possible. When we are able to gather and invite our customers and vendors to join us at a dealer market, it will be an entirely new experience with new complementary in-person and digital strategies that we believe will make the experience better than we ever anticipated.
5. What major initiatives are on tap for Orgill in 2021?
First of all, we must restore our service level to our historical standards as quickly as possible. Everything else we plan really depends upon that. We have planned for 7 percent growth this year and are continuing to build capacity to serve the increased business. We’ll need to stay on track opening our new distribution center in Rome, N.Y.; and begin planning additional expansion of our distribution network in the West. We are developing an exciting new vision of the role technology plays in our mission “to help our customers be successful” that we’ll discuss in more detail later in the year. We’re also continuing to develop new strategies, processes and best practices in the lab at CNRG to share with all of our customers. We’re very excited about the opportunities we see for our customers and Orgill in 2021.
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