Beacon Awards 2021 — Orgill Winners

  • Beacon Award for Best New Store Over 20,000 sq. ft. — Bomgaars

    By Chris Jensen

    Bomgaars has transformed a shuttered chain store into a shining example of what their community needs, providing a one-stop shop for everything from hardware and tools to footwear and feed.

    The Bomgaars store in Council Bluffs, Iowa, moved from a 33,500-square foot space into a former Kmart, bumping its square footage to 84,000 square feet and becoming a Bomgaars superstore.

    Joseph Puhalla is manager of Bomgaars’ new store in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
    Joseph Puhalla is manager of Bomgaars’ new store in Council Bluffs, Iowa.»

    After it moved to the new location in September 2019, it didn’t take long for the Council Bluffs store to become an all-star performer. Sales in the new location are up 55 percent from the previous year, and the store has exceeded the monthly sales goal every month since opening.

    The remodel included widening aisles, replacing some of the flooring and electrical and adding lighting for display cases.

    The already massive footwear department has proven so popular it will be undergoing further expansion.
    The already massive footwear department has proven so popular it will be undergoing further expansion.»

    “Orgill has been a key partner in our success every single time our stores have expanded, relocated or improved in any manner,” says Joseph Puhalla, who has been the manager at Council Bluffs since August 2015. “Whenever we call on them to assist, they step up and provide relocation teams who set product in a quick turnaround. They also provide valuable input in designing our product planograms, while their Smart Start program has been crucial in opening new stores.”

    Five aisles are devoted to DeWalt products, turning the store into a destination for power tools and accessories.Five aisles are devoted to DeWalt products, turning the store into a destination for power tools and accessories.»

    One-Stop Shop

    Fulfilling Bomgaars’ mission—to have what you need, when you need it, at the right price—the Council Bluffs store stocks products in major core categories, including electrical, plumbing, lawn and garden, tools, hardware and paint.

    The store’s larger size means it can carry a wider assortment of products—customers can shop additional niche categories such as clothing and footwear, farm and ranch, pet, automotive, sporting goods, scrubs and medical wear, housewares and toys. They will also find more brands in departments like pet food and horse feed.

    The core of the business is farm and ranch categories like animal feed.The core of the business is farm and ranch categories like animal feed.»

    “The core of our business is farm and ranch,” Puhalla notes, adding that Council Bluffs is a heavy agricultural area with a great environment for raising livestock as well as field crops. It is also in a more urban demographic with about 62,000 residents and Omaha just across the river.

    Promoting the store-within-a-store concept, this location has a large DeWalt store within the main store that occupies nearly five aisles. The DeWalt-branded signage, displays and endcaps used in this area make it clear to customers that Bomgaars is a go-to store for DeWalt tools and accessories.

    Footwear, power tools and power equipment are the three largest categories.Footwear, power tools and power equipment are the three largest categories.»

    “Our employees are trained in DeWalt power tools, so customers know they can rely on them to answer their questions,” says Puhalla. “I think that’s a big thing that sets us apart across the other areas of the store, too; customers know our employees can help them find what they need quickly and accurately.”

    The clothing area has a department store feel and is divided into different clothing shops dedicated to Carhartt, Dickies, Key and Ariat brands, with creative merchandising unique to each brand.

    “We drastically expanded the clothing department. We have been able to add new brands and create a destination for footwear,” says Puhalla. “Every department in the store grew and the extra space has allowed better merchandising to promote the sales.”

    The clothing area has a department store feel and is divided into different clothing shops by brand.The clothing area has a department store feel and is divided into different clothing shops by brand.»

    Creative Merchandising

    Inventive merchandising can be seen in other areas of the store as well. “We repurpose merchandise, like our galvanized feed troughs or stock tanks, and flip those over to use as displays,” adds Assistant Manager Steve Reiger. “They work well, look nice and show customers some of the products we carry.”

    The 84,000-square-foot location is one of Bomgaars’ largest stores.The 84,000-square-foot location is one of Bomgaars’ largest stores.»

    They continue to tweak the assortments to better serve customers. “With the success of footwear, we are adding many new styles and this will require a major aisle shift to make the new space,” Puhalla points out.

    So far, the community seems to really enjoy the new space. “They like being able to shop in a more organized store with more choices,” he adds. “Staffing, product availability and behavior have changed the way everybody does business and even expectations from customers and employees.”

    A bigger store means more employees, and Council Bluffs now has 47 employees, which is about 20 more than before. “We try to use shadowing as much as possible to help them learn. As they learn, they are given more responsibilities,” says Puhalla.

    By more than doubling in size, the new Council Bluffs store has been able to expand greatly in categories like hardware.By more than doubling in size, the new Council Bluffs store has been able to expand greatly in categories like hardware.»

    Impacting the Community

    Bomgaars prides itself on having a positive impact in the communities it serves, and the Council Bluffs store is no exception. The store supports local organizations like 4-H and the National FFA Organization, and during its most recent ladies’ night event, it donated 5 percent of all sales from the evening to a local hospital’s women’s health program.

    They host Bomgaars Show Clinic Tours, where customers can come in and learn about farm and animal topics like animal selection, showmanship, feed and management. In addition, the company supports past and current members of the military with social media posts and by selling military-related merchandise from the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation.

    Pet food is one of the major niche categories.
    Pet food is one of the major niche categories.»

    The Council Bluffs store is part of the growing Bomgaars company, which opened its 100th store in April and now has 107 stores in Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

    The fourth-generation company, which is owned by Roger and Jane Bomgaars, began in Sioux City, Iowa in 1952, when Bill Bomgaars was one of four men to form the Mid-States buying group to pursue the farm fleet business.

    “We grow by opportunity and recently have moved into several empty buildings in small-to-medium sized towns in the Midwest that were former Shopko stores,” says Torrey Wingert, vice president and chief financial officer for Bomgaars.

    “It’s such a great honor to even be nominated for the Beacon Award, let alone win it. To be chosen for this is an extreme honor,” says Puhalla. “My crew works very hard for the success of this business with no expectation of this kind of recognition. I am glad to share this honor with them.”

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  • Retail Beacon Award: Bartlett’s Lumber & Hardware

    By Chris Jensen

    Community involvement isn’t just a catchphrase or feel-good sentiment for Bartlett’s Lumber & Hardware, which was founded by Bill Bartlett in 1937. For his son Terrill Bartlett, who runs the business today with 10 locations spread across the Texas Panhandle, supporting the community is more than just empty platitudes; it’s putting words into action.

    Bartlett’s Lumber & Hardware includes 10 locations across the Texas Panhandle.
    Bartlett’s Lumber & Hardware includes 10 locations across the Texas Panhandle.»

    Being involved in the community means helping customers navigate the extreme weather that can sometimes cross the Texas Panhandle. “Anytime there is a storm in one of our communities, we donate the equipment and our employees donate their time to help clean up,” says Terrill, who along with several employees are volunteers with their local fire departments and EMS units.

    “When they are dispatched to an incident, we keep them clocked in,” he adds. “We want our employees involved in the community, so we remove as many barriers to that as we can.”

    Terrill Bartlett, second-generation owner of Bartlett’s Lumber & Hardware, grew up working in the business.
    Terrill Bartlett, second-generation owner of Bartlett’s Lumber & Hardware, grew up working in the business.»

    In March 2017, several counties around Canadian—where Bartlett’s general office and distribution center are located—suffered property and personal damage from a 300,000-acre grass fire. It was especially painful for Bartlett’s as they lost an employee who was trying to get home to his pregnant wife.

    The company donated over $100,000 to area ranchers and fire departments that suffered losses during the fire. In 2020, the Meals on Wheels facility in Shamrock, Texas, burned down and Bartlett’s donated materials to have it rebuilt.

    “Obviously, life in small rural communities is different from larger cities. Everyone knows everybody and you feel compelled to be a part of that community. We have been very blessed and are always happy to assist when the need arises,” Terrill says.

    Bartlett’s partners with Red Brand to help support and donate to the local chapters of the FFA (Future Farmers of America) organization.

    Bartlett’s main store is in Canadian, Texas, which is where the company’s general office and distribution center are located.
    Bartlett’s main store is in Canadian, Texas, which is where the company’s general office and distribution center are located.»

    Sales on the Upswing

    Bartlett’s continues to set new sales records each year, with sales up 21 percent last year. The stores are neat, clean and easy-to-navigate, allowing customers to find what they need, with free in-town delivery provided. “We carry a lot of farm and ranch clothing and boots to serve our customers,” says Terrill.

    Farm and ranch is a big category for Bartlett’s, which recently expanded into feed for farm animals. Other top niche categories include fire-retardant clothing and irrigation supplies. “We have a lot of contractor and commercial sales, but most is still DIY business,” according to Terrill.

    Farm and ranch is a dominant category at Bartlett’s.
    Farm and ranch is a dominant category at Bartlett’s.»

    Bartlett’s has used technology to enhance the customer’s shopping experience. “We use tablets with remote access to our main point-of-sale system, which allows us to create customer quotes, purchase orders and sales transactions remotely,” Terrill points out.

    They have an extensive e-commerce section on their website that includes an e-catalog, product selection guide, buying guides and a project center to guide customers in choosing the right products for their project.

    Bartlett’s implemented buy online, pickup in store during COVID. They launched a mobile app, ProLink, that gives customers on-demand access to place orders, submit quotes, find account information and check delivery or pickup status.

    Paint is a top-selling category for Bartlett’s 10 stores, which attract more DIY than pro sales.
    Paint is a top-selling category for Bartlett’s 10 stores, which attract more DIY than pro sales.»

    Bartlett’s store in Dalhart features a prominent checkout and customer service counter.
    Bartlett’s store in Dalhart features a prominent checkout and customer service counter.»

    Taking Care of Employees

    Bartlett’s care for the community is seen in the way it treats its employees. The company has about100 employees, with many joining the team and not leaving until they retire. It is one of the few retailers that has not had any problems with staffing or hiring during the pandemic.

    Terrill learned an important retail lesson from his father. “He always said that if you take care of your employees and your customers, everything else will fall into place and that is very true. Happy employees create happy customers,” he points out.

    “We strive to make sure everyone is treated and paid fairly,” says Terrill. “We compensate our employees that take the NRHA training programs, and we have an extensive employee training and safety program.”

    Terrill grew up working in the business along with his brother Tom, who retired several years ago. “We communicated well with each other and we always knew of any difficulties the other one was having. We also agreed to never make any major decision that we did not both agree on. If we did not agree we would put it on the shelf and come back to it later,” Terrill says.

    Now Terrill’s sons Coleman and Bryan represent the third generation of the family. Coleman’s main responsibility is watching over margins and inventory, while Bryan oversees the IT department, which has grown a lot over the years.

    A new location opened in Perryton in January 2020 with double the sales space.
    A new location opened in Perryton in January 2020 with double the sales space.»

    Opening New Stores

    Bartlett’s Spearman store that opened in 2013 was a former car dealership, and they reconfigured the service bay area into a 25,000-square-foot drive-thru lumberyard with a mezzanine storage space. They have now converted four stores to drive-through lumberyards.

    Bartlett’s opened a new location in Perryton in January 2020 with double the sales floor space, but the pandemic forced them to wait a year to hold a grand opening in May. “The new store is doing well,” Terrill says. “The grand opening was a huge success, but it was due in large part to the fact that people were anxious to get out and gather somewhere to experience an event that felt normal again.”

    They have also started construction on a new store in Pampa to replace an older one and it will be modeled after the one they built in Perryton.

    Bartlett’s store in Wellington was voted Best Hardware Store.
    Bartlett’s store in Wellington was voted Best Hardware Store.»

    “Orgill has a very reliable distribution program, strong rebate and advertising programs and they help a lot with e-commerce,” says Terrill. “But the one thing that really sets them apart is our sales rep, Kerry Rosson. Kerry will suggest new products, but only to the extent that he feels it will help the store. If he feels that it’s not a good fit, then he will tell you. He helps set up new products and suggests changes that can help the store’s visual appeal. He has been Orgill’s biggest asset for us.”

    “We feel very honored to have won the Beacon Award, but we also recognize it would not have been possible without God’s blessings and our dedicated employees. This award is a testament to them,” says Terrill.

    The Spearman store that opened in 2013 was a former car dealership, with the service bay area reconfigured into a 25,000-square-foot drive-thru lumberyard.
    The Spearman store that opened in 2013 was a former car dealership, with the service bay area reconfigured into a 25,000-square-foot drive-thru lumberyard. »

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