The years since the recession have seen a decrease in supplier loyalty and a more prominent focus on dollars and cents. Jim Robisch, senior partner and director of dealer/retailer services at The Farnsworth Group, highlighted these tropes and more during his presentation at the ProDealer Industry Summit Oct. 24 in Nashville, Tenn.
The presentation, titled "Where Pros and DIYers are Buying Building Supplies and Home Improvement Products ... and Why," was based on recent market research by Farnsworth examining the ripple effect of the recession years on shopping behaviors among remodelers and builders.
"The rate of change has accelerated in the past two to three years -- change like we've never seen before," said Robisch. "The strategies of 2008 and 2009 aren't going to work anymore [for most dealers]."
Though it remains a relationship-driven market, cost has become increasingly important to shoppers -- 81% listed price among their top three driving forces in store selection. Quality and products came next, followed by convenience and location.
One of the more unexpected findings was that price is important regardless of age. Additionally, DIYers tend to shop where prices are competitive, though not always the lowest (67%). Only 21% said they shop in stores that consistently have the lowest prices.
"If you're not going to price in a competitive way, you might as well forget about going after the consumer," said Robisch.
Big-box retailers remained the popular choice across all age groups, with 88% shopping at a warehouse home center in the past 12 months. Compare that with 50% for hardware stores and 11% for both the LBM and farm and ranch categories.
In spite of this, seniors are slightly more likely to shop at big-box stores -- the favorite among this age group -- while those aged 25-34 favor hardware stores. Robisch attributes the disparity to their status as first-time homeowners who need guidance and information.
Priorities have also shifted since 2008 when it comes to selecting a primary supplier. Product availability has become a steadily increasing factor of importance in the post-recession aftermath for both builders and remodelers, whereas quality has actually decreased in importance.
"Loyalty has waned tremendously to suppliers -- the whole idea of competitive price shopping has increased," said Robisch. "There's a significant level of cross-shopping going on, and you have to deal with that."
The good news is that 99% of builders still shop at lumberyards and building materials suppliers, as well as 80% of remodelers. However, 76% of builders and 84% of remodelers also shop at warehouse home centers.
Robisch suggested that remodelers are worth courting, but since customer service tends to prioritize builders at lumberyards and wholesale distributors, many of them are being driven away.
"Remodelers are beginning to think that you view them as second-class citizens again," he said. "I'm not sure that that's a good thing. There's an opportunity here -- make sure you're capitalizing on it."
Though 57% of builders and 48% of remodelers still list lumberyards and building materials distributors as their primary suppliers, that number used to be closer to 64% or 65% for builders. The key, says Robisch, to reeling that audience back in is to double down on the factors that cause customers to favor LBM in the first place: a solid knowledge base, delivery services and existing relationships.