Charting Success: Orgill Buyers And The New Normal

In an exclusive interview, Hardware Connection talked with Orgill buying executives Jeff Curler, executive vice president of purchasing; Heath Kennedy, director hardlines merchandise; and Alan Shore, director seasonal merchandise, to discuss the Collierville, Tenn.-based distributor’s purchasing strategies in the post-pandemic environment.

Jeff Curler, executive vice president of purchasing for Orgill
Jeff Curler, executive vice president of purchasing for Orgill

HC: Do you sense any desire to go back to pre-pandemic buying mindsets?

Jeff Curler: Everything that we do today, we reference the pre-pandemic as the last normal time, and the industry is still trying to figure out what the new normal is. I was moderating a panel and someone made the comment that 2023 would re-establish what normal was moving forward, but that didn’t happen. So, we’re hoping that 2024 sets the bar again. From the perspective of less messy and less chaotic, everybody would like to go back to those days, but they’d like to keep the sales that occurred over the course of the Covid period. We learned a lot of things.

HC: What’s a lesson from the pandemic that’s changed how you do business?

JC: The supply chain crisis and the surge in the business put a stressor on our ability to fulfill our customers’ needs through our operations team and from the vendor community. Any one distributor that had a 40 percent increase could have been handled by the vendor community, but when they all were running 40 percent increases, that didn’t happen. It’s the same thing on the inside of our distribution system. We were not prepared for that kind of volume. Orgill CEO Boyden Moore had set forth a mission to double our business in five years. Coming out of the pandemic, we were able to correct and install an operational network that is now prepared for that type of goal.

HC: What were some of the changes to get that operational network to handle such an ambitious goal?

JC: The main change was bringing on additional shifts in the distribution centers to handle more volume, both inbound and outbound. We did cross training across the inbound side and the outbound side of the building, which was critical. We could move resources within the distribution center as needed. That type of flexibility is going to be necessary as our business goes up by a billion dollars at a time. So with that, we’re prepared to move almost $3.8 billion in sales today to $6 billion. We have the infrastructure in place to do that.

HC: What is your biggest challenge in getting to that goal?

JC: If we were trying to do that organically, we’d be kidding ourselves. The biggest challenge is going to continue to fuel new customer additions and that type of growth. I think one of the challenges, and I don’t know that it’s a challenge anymore, but it would’ve been getting the vendor community on board. As we look at our channel in terms of who serves this channel from a distribution standpoint, it’s really coming down to a two-horse race. Vendors are learning to allocate their resources to the horses they want to ride, and we believe Orgill is one of those.

Continue Reading in the April 2024 Issue

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