Region-By-Region Look at Business Conditions in March 2021
Greg Beckner is the manager of Jerry’s Do it Center.»
How are sales and customer counts? What impact has COVID-19 had on your business? We’re up about 18 percent over the previous year. Customer count isn’t as high, maybe 5 percent. So far, we’re pretty flat in 2021. The weather has killed us, because we’ve had lots of snow. Lumber pricing has made 2021 slower. People are waiting, hoping lumber pricing comes down.
New initiatives planned for 2021? We’ll continue our great customer service. We have a very senior sales force; most have been here over 20 years.
Strongest niche categories? We don’t really have niches, more of a broad, good inventory selection in our 8,200-square-foot store.
The paint department at Jerry’s Do it Center has seen an uptick in business during the pandemic.»
Biggest challenge facing your business today? Finding new employees. We keep a sign on our front window and post open positions on Facebook. We just can’t find good applicants, mainly thanks to the government paying people more to stay home than find a job.
What have you learned during COVID that will make your business stronger for the future? Customers are concerned about safety. We are cleaning constantly, wiping and sanitizing surfaces, before we open and about every hour or two during the day.
Jerry’s Do it Center
Bisbee Lumber caters to the many summer camps in the area.»
How are sales and customer counts? What impact has COVID-19 had on your business? Sales are up about 15 percent, and customer count is about same or slightly better than the previous year. This year, we’re off in February and that’s bringing the whole year down. There’s been no letup to the snow, so contractors and homeowners aren’t coming in. The biggest impact of COVID-19 is the uncertainty. We’re in an area of about 13 to 18 summer camps, and in the winter those accounts are about one-third of the store’s business. Last summer, the camps were closed, and if they have to close this summer, a lot are going to close permanently. Real estate here has gone nuts, with new properties being built and renovations being done. But I don’t know if that will continue in 2021. Last year, as a data point in evaluating our business, has to be thrown out.
New initiatives planned for 2021? We’re always looking for new products, especially products catering toward self-sustainability. We’ve seen more people getting into gardening and growing their own food and preserving. This past year, we had an issue getting canning products. We’ll also push Facebook and our online presence to be more up to date.
Strongest niche categories? We do a lot of lumber and pressure-treated lumber sales. But last year, pressure-treated lumber was almost impossible to get. There just wasn’t product out there. We also do good business in all types of decking.
Biggest challenge facing your business today? It’s the dwindling of small towns. We’re in a small town, a small community. For us, if the summer camps don’t come back, we’re done.
What have you learned during COVID that will make your business stronger for the future? The biggest thing is that we can’t settle for normalcy. Before, we’d order from the warehouse on a week-by-week basis. That was fine before COVID-19, but last year, the supply chain went haywire. There were some weeks where we couldn’t get dirt. We had to wait two weeks before we could get topsoil. Balancing in-stock with orders is very tricky these days. But we can’t wait and depend on what has always been done. We’re now always asking if there’s a better way to get products.
Bisbee Lumber | Hancock, N.Y.
Michael Siewers and Jamie Naab, who runs the hardware section at Siewers Lumber & Millwork, are checking out a deck wrecker tool. »
How are sales and customer counts? What impact has COVID-19 had on your business? Customer counts stayed steady. At the beginning of the pandemic, they dipped but rebounded. For the year, we’re probably up 5 to 10 percent. This year, January was a little bit below last year, but February seems to be keeping up with the previous year. The largest impact of COVID-19 has been with the supply chain and pricing.
New initiatives planned for 2021? We did a drive-through service during COVID, and we’re looking to implement that again. It takes a lot of workers, so we need to set up a new division for drive-through service.
Strongest niche categories? One product that we’re becoming known for is a cavity slider pocket door frame. It’s a high-end door frame made in New Zealand. It’s quality and the construction is superb. We will try to seek out products that are superior quality and bring good value.
Biggest challenge facing your business today? Not as much with hardware, but with the lumber side of the business, it’s been the supply chain. Vendors have had a hard time getting the raw materials to build windows. On the hardware side, we have a bit of an issue with epoxies.
What have you learned during COVID that will make your business stronger for the future? Hard work does pay off. We had to work very hard to keep the business afloat during COVID-19. Everyone pitched in, getting orders together, and there was a lot of hard work to get the orders into customers’ hands.
Siewers Lumber & Millwork
Gary and Susan McKay have owned McKay’s True Value since 2018.»
How are sales and customer counts? What impact has COVID-19 had on your business? We’re a new store, only two-and-a-half years old. Our sales were up 40 percent over the previous year. We saw growth because people were stuck at home, looking for something to do and not spending money on vacations.
New initiatives planned for 2021? Nothing really new. We’re looking to do more marketing and get away from circulars and go more digital. Between Google and Facebook, digital marketing seems the way to go. People just pick up their phones and Google what they need.
Strongest niche categories? We’re trying to create an outdoor living niche with pool supplies, patio furniture and other outdoor living products. Here, winter is when everybody gets to enjoy their backyards. We’re trying to capture that market. We also do good business with grills. This year, we’ve already sold 10 grills.
Biggest challenge facing your business today? The government. It’s scary right now with the new president’s actions, not knowing what he’s going do that will affect business, such as taxes or raising minimum wage.
What have you learned during COVID that will make your business stronger for the future? We really didn’t change our business much with the pandemic. We took precautions and disinfected and cleaned, but we didn’t really change much how we operated. We changed inventory for temporary sales, but those things have already slowed down. We run a tight ship and we’re all about customer service.
McKay’s True Value Hardware
Alan Medina has owned Parsons Lumber & Hardware since 1988.»
How are sales and customer counts? What impact has COVID-19 had on your business? We’re up more than 20 percent and we have a strong beginning to 2021. COVID-19 has increased sales. We’re an old-fashioned hardware store for repairs and minor improvements. April and May last year, we were off the charts. People were looking for things to do and had more disposable income. We were so busy, deliveries would come in on Friday, and we couldn’t get everything on the shelves until Sunday. We started closing one day a week and reduced hours to give employees a break. From opening until close, we had constant lines, no breaks, no down time. Even closing that additional time, we still stayed 20 percent above last year. We really had a tiger by the tail. Because of COVID-19, we’ve seen a lot of new faces who otherwise wouldn’t have shopped here before. We’ve taken great measures to protect employees and customers, putting up barriers on the counter in front of the cash register.
New initiatives planned for 2021? We’re still trying to catch up. We do inventory control by eye, so we’re looking to upgrade inventory levels to where we need to be. We need to find some new people. We have put a sign on the door and looked for a new manager, but it’s very, very difficult, especially when people are collecting $350 week and more from the Feds. They don’t want to go back to work.
Strongest niche categories? We have a niche that’s becoming non-extinct: Service and product knowledge. When people come in, they’re greeted and approached by at least one employee. We are very high service. We walk customers to the aisle to find products. We’re a 3,000-square-foot store with 32,000 SKUs. People are amazed what they can find here that they can’t find at the big box.
Biggest challenge facing your business today? The biggest challenge has always been managing people, but that’s less of a challenge when you treat them right. Another big problem is finding qualified help.
What have you learned during COVID that will make your business stronger for the future? People love our service. They love coming into a store and finding that they’re treated like how their grandfathers would be when shopping with old-fashioned, friendly, knowledgeable service.
Parsons Lumber & Hardware
Boyes Hot Springs, Calif.
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