Special orders round out faucet mix

Kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects are a favorite among D-IYers, and a new faucet can go a long way toward changing the way these important rooms look. “It s like setting a dining room table,” says Michael Gaines, vice president of merchandising for Philadelphia-based Mr. Goodbuys. “You can change the look of the entire table by changing the flat ware. A new faucet can change the look of the bathroom.”

Nearly 10 percent of U.S. households add or remodel kitchens or baths, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Housing & Urban Development. Of those projects, more than half were D-I-Y. And as the remodeling segment of the industry continues to strengthen, these projects will become even more important to building supply retailers.

In order to serve the growing demand for faucets in the kitchen and bath, retailers must provide the best assortment of styles and price points in their respective markets. And special order capability rounds out any faucet mix without tying up a lot of cash in inventory. if it doesn’t turn, special-order it

One faucet supplier recommends carrying a good selection of high-turn faucets backed by a strong special-order capability. “The retailer needs that faucet within 10 days, or he will lose 70 percent of his [special-order] sales,” he says. A strong ability and willingness to handle special orders also breeds loyalty and meets the customer’s demand for quality and service. “If customers know you will help them,” says a faucet supplier, “that’s a strong statement for loyalty.”

Goodbuys, whose faucet selection runs about 50 lineal feet with 120 sku’s, does a tremendous amount of special-order business, according to Gaines. F.S. Vanhoose & Co., a Paintsville, Ky. retailer, displays a few high-end faucets and then special orders them as needed.

But special-order sales only round out the basic faucet mix; they can’t carry the department. Jerry Taylor, buyer for two-unit Vanhoose, stocks 120 sku’s in 30 lineal feet. He decides which faucets to stock based on local market demand. “Price is the dominant factor in our market,” Taylor says. “Consumers here are looking for good buys over quality.” He talks to sales staff and uses his personal judgment to set up the basic faucet assortment.

Builders Discount, an $80 million retailer in N. Hollywood, Calif., polls customers as they leave the store. “We do exit interviews,” says Trevor Harris, merchandising manager for the four-store company. “We ask them what we didn’t have.” Faucet selections then vary slightly from store to store, based on local market demands.

Dixieline Lumber in San Diego annually reviews the faucet mix to evaluate each product. “If one isn’t selling, we decide whether or not we have to display it,” says Bob Koenig, corporate merchandiser for the 10-unit, $150 million company. “All our faucets turn well because of the annual review. We do have stores that stock a particular item. For example, one store sells a lot of red and black faucets. It’s the only unit that stocks them.”

The faucet mix should also cover each price point in order to maximize inventory turns and GMROI, says one supplier. “Start at $10 or $15, then move up at 4-dollar increments to $50. Then move in 10-dollar increments.”

Once the price points are covered and the market demand met, the faucet display becomes the selling tool. Builders Discount displays its 80 sku’s on a massive counter top, according to Harris. With stores averaging 100,000 square feet, the company is able to provide 63 lineal feet of faucets in a solid run. The counter top provides a realistic setting for the faucets, and enables the company to cross-merchandise shower heads above the display. Cross-merchandising should not be overlooked. Goodbuys cross-merchandises faucets in its 8,000-squarefoot kitchen vignettes display and on bathroom vanities. Dixieline puts replacement parts above its two-tiered display.

Another important merchandising consideration is the stock from which customers pick the faucet they’ve chosen from the display. “Keep it noticeable,” says one supplier. “Don’t make the customer search for the box. Put it right below the display.”

Tap anti-scald demand

Retailers should plan to display antiscald units, as well. According to a recent consumer survey conducted by Professional Builder & Remodeler magazine, 59 percent of consumers want anti-scald devices in faucets.

Goodbuys’ Gaines recognizes the potential in this segment and says the company is looking at it. “It would definitely be worth a special section,” he says. A supplier of anti-scald faucets recommends displaying one or two units with signs. “Tell what it does and that it meets the various code requirements,” he says.

A display of anti-scald faucets adds one more dimension to a well-merchandised faucet lineup. Properly done, it will complement a mix matched to the market, complete with the right price points and styles. And special order capabilities will round off that mix to provide the selection and service that customers demand.

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