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Orgill carves a spot in farm and fleet distribution

The farm and ranch category by many accounts is a bright spot on the retailing landscape. On the recently published Home Channel News Top 500 Scoreboard, the farm and ranch segment -- making its first appearance on the list as a stand-alone retail category -- led all other segments in growth with a 10.2 percent jump over the previous year. The home center category was a close second, with 9.9 percent growth. Separately, farm-and-ranch stalwart Tractor Supply’s comp-store sales of 4 percent outperformed the big boxes, handily.

Memphis, Tenn.-based distributor Orgill has been taking steps to capitalize on it, as well.

“For well over a century, Orgill has handled farm and agricultural products,” said Jeffrey Brake, Orgill’s merchandise manager for farm and pet. “But we have never really focused in and looked at it with capital letters.”

Orgill’s new emphasis on the sector is the result of several events, including those of the geographic variety. They include the acquisition of Omaha, Neb.-based distributor Wright & Wilhelmy, early in 2006. There was the opening of the Hurricane, Utah, distribution center in 2005. And there was a separate pick up of accounts in Texas and Oklahoma.

“So if you look at the locations, they all kind of point inward to the heart of our nation,” said Brake. “This is prime farm and ranch territory.”

Fine tuning the product mix is a never-ending strategy. Recently, Orgill brought in John Deere die-cast toys, completely re-engineered its wild bird assortment and enhanced rodent control and fly control -- a crucial element of livestock management.

One of the product solutions consists of a machine the size of a five-gallon cooler that can trap 50,000 flies a day, said Brake. “Fly control is critically important, and for a dairy farmer, cleanliness is critical also,” he said.

Orgill finished both 2006 and the first half of 2007 with sales gains during the most severe housing slump since the 1980s. After ringing up sales of $936 billion in 2005, the company surpassed the $1 billion mark ($1.036 billion) in 2006. Judging from sales in the first half of 2007, Beal expects mid-single-digit increases this year -- putting sales close to $1.1 billion for the year.

Orgill President and CEO Ron Beal attributes that growth to resiliency and focus on the customer.

“In basically every category, we’ve gotten into different niches so the local guy has a lot of tools to compete in his market,” Beal said. “We are flexible, and we are there for the independent to do what he needs to do.”

For an in-depth look at Orgill’s plans for 2008 and beyond, read the Aug. 13 issue of Home Channel News magazine.

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