Jackson Building Supply Undergoes Total Store Makeover
Jackson Building Supply in Starke, Fla., started by accident. In an empty lot on the outskirts of town, the company’s founder, W.T. “Billy” Jackson piled up the remnants of buildings from his demolition jobs. People would ask to buy some of the wood, and from that unexpected demand Billy decided to create a lumber supply business.
That was in 1955, and since then, the company has spanned three generations, expanding and changing locations from the original lot to a 5,000-square-foot building on eight acres. Billy’s son, Mark, began working at the store when he was 12 years old and remembers pulling nails out of 2x4s so the wood could be resold.
As Mark grew older, he realized the store could make more money by offering a broader line of hardware. So, without his dad’s permission, he went to a local bank and asked for a $20,000 loan for expansion.
“That banker looked at me and told me that he’d be crazy to give me that kind of money,” Mark recalls. “I went to another bank and got approved. Turns out, my father knew what I was up to, and went in and co-signed for me. We got the money and expanded.”
With his vision, Mark helped grow the family business from a $50,000-a-year operation to a more than $2-million-a-year business with 17 full and part-time employees.
“I didn’t know a thing about electrical or plumbing,” Mark says. “But I knew we needed it to grow the business.”
That family tradition of innovation has been passed on to Mark’s son, Eric, who now oversees the business as president while his father has been easing out of the day-to-day operation. Other family members who work at the store include Mark’s wife, Henriette, and daughter Priscilla.
After two years of careful consideration, the family decided that the store needed a makeover.
“The store hadn’t been redone in two decades or more,” explains Richard Meyers, the store’s House-Hasson territory manager. “The shelves would be empty, and it looked more like a storage area than someone trying to sell something.”
Reset plans included a dramatic, total interior makeover, removing all the old shelving, signage and the tattered brown carpet that had covered the floor for more than 25 years.
Mark initially had his doubts. “I wasn’t convinced; I would have to see it to believe it,” he remembers thinking.
For the Jackson family, the decision to reset their store took careful consideration and months of planning. Foremost among their concerns: Maintaining their independence and keeping their ability to meet their customers’ specific needs.
House-Hasson representatives reviewed the core offerings, sometimes item by item, and revised store layout plans based on the Jacksons’ concerns.
“With any store reset, we offer total dealer customization,” says Pat McCutcheon, House-Hasson regional manager. “The dealers know their market and customers, so we are totally flexible as we work together on the store design and assortment.”
“The reset went really smooth,” says Eric of the month-long project this past June. “To work with us, they made some changes the day they showed up. It wasn’t a big deal when some of their plans weren’t what we were expecting. They worked with us.”
Floor to Ceiling Redesign
The 5,000-square-foot salesfloor needed a redesign that would make the most of the space. This involved three major changes: moving the store’s entrance from the middle of the building to the side, installing new shelving and changing the aisle orientation.
Moving the entrance from the middle of the store to the side had several advantages. It created a better walkway flow and employees could better see—and help—customers as they enter the store. The move also saved space. Previously, there had been a large open area, and now the register and customer service area is more compact. The move also allowed for more parking at the front of the store.
However, the change that may have the most impact is installing new shelving and changing the store layout. The store previously had four-foot-high shelves, but the new shelving is eight feet high and the new store design added two 24-foot rows of shelving. The combination of these changes created an additional 150 linear feet of shelf space.
The shabby, old carpet was replaced with clean, white tile. New lighting was added throughout. The reset team even used a light meter to ensure that light levels were at 20 lumens or more throughout the store.
“It’s bright and inviting,” says Eric. “The House-Hasson folks completely changed the direction of the store.”
Eric believes these changes will help broaden his customer base. “We know many purchases are driven by women and contractors can now direct women to come in to look at products,” he says. “This will help attract women to the store, as opposed to a dark store and empty shelves.”
Among the products that House-Hasson added was cabinetry, and the reset included a special area in the store displaying sample cabinets. Making the most of the space, the floor of this area is covered with flooring samples, too.
Above the cabinet display is another example of how the redesign looked to maximize space. Bathroom vents line a ceiling beam that was previously unused. Another space saver: the roll flashing display. The store only displays one or two of the different sizes on the shelf, and when one size is removed, another is brought from the backroom.
The reset looked to group similar products in displays and endcaps. Before, similar products were scattered throughout the store. For example, hand tools were separated in different areas, but after the reset, all the hand tools are in one display.
“Even though they’re done with the reset, the store has more flexibility to expand,” says McCutcheon. “We feel like we’ve helped them create a legacy for the store’s continued success.”
Sorting Out the Assortment
While moving the aisles, adding new, taller shelves, and moving the front door were all big, noticeable changes, creating a new assortment was at the core of the store’s reset.
With help from McCutcheon and Meyers, the Jackson family thoroughly examined the store’s product offering. Working together, they added about 15,000 new items to their assortment.
“As an independent store owner, the changes were still their call, we just made suggestions and working together we settled on assortment additions,” Meyers says.
Eric helped select items he knew his customers would seek out, and the House-Hasson team suggested products that were best-selling items in the region. As part of the reset, House-Hasson worked with the store so they didn’t lose any old stock. For example, they integrated older paint labels with the new expanded lines.
“We like the small business feel of House-Hasson,” Eric says. “They bend over backward to help.”
The plumbing and electrical departments were beefed up considerably, and welding and soldering supplies were added to the mix. Through an analysis of the store’s customers, which are evenly split between contractors and d-i-yers, other categories received a dramatic increase. For example, they expanded their offering of putty knives from two or three to more than 30.
“Since the reset, there has been an uptick in walk-in traffic,” Eric says. “After the reset we’re better equipped to bring in retail business and contractors.”
The makeover has helped the store keep up with local competition, such as another hardware store less than a football field down the street. Using House-Hasson’s pricing system, Jackson Building Supply can adjust prices based on costs and can customize any item based on the market.
Along with an increase in foot traffic, sales have been on the rise since the remodel. To celebrate their reset, the store held a grand reopening in September, offering free food and a vintage car show in the parking lot. As Mark walked around the store he’s known for more than four decades, he was convinced.
“I’m really glad that we took the step for this transformation,” he said. “This is just tremendous.”