R & J Building Supply Gives Customers a Fresh Look


Sometimes you just have to give customers what they want, even if they haven’t asked for it yet. That’s how things played out at R&J Building Supply in Lovely, Ky., which recently had House-Hasson tackle a full reset of the store.

Customers weren’t complaining about the way the store looked before, but they sure haven’t been shy about sharing how much they like the new layout and the fresh look.

“Customers like the openness of the store and the new look. It makes it look like a brand-new store,” comments Manager David Fletcher.

House-Hasson conducted an RPM study, which pointed to a need to freshen up the store and tweak the merchandise mix. Work on the remerchandising began in February and took three to four weeks to complete. At times there were two reset crews working in the store. “It’s hard to move around fixtures, but they used the Gondola Train™, which saved us two weeks of work,” points out Beverly Perry, vice president-sales for Prichard.

The remodeling project was a complete reset of the 7,000-square-foot salesfloor. The paint department was moved to the front of the store and the shelves in the main section were lowered so that customers could see the scope of the store and the various departments when they walked in. Moving paint to the front has boosted sales in that department and helped attract more female customers.

“The store’s accessibility is better and we’ve seen a big uptick in walk-in customers,” says Fletcher, who adds that the changes allowed more room for product additions.

Those product additions include 12 feet of power tools and air compressors for general contractors as well as 1 lb. and 5 lb. boxes of pro fasteners. The 32 feet of Century power tool accessories are highly visible as soon as customers walk in the door, as is the new Husqvarna timber display. They had previously stocked both Poulan and Hitachi, but now they are just focusing on carrying the full assortment of Husqvarna. “Now customers can walk in and see how many accessories you have. We’ve grouped everything together so you can find it better—it’s just more organized now,” Fletcher says.

Plumbing is the top department followed by electrical and then paint. Appliances were moved back into a redesigned showroom area that now features twice as much stuff. Where there used to be HVAC and ductwork is now home to lighting and door displays.

R& J had been buying from both Persinger Supply and House-Hasson before the two companies merged in 2007. “You couldn’t ask for more from a supplier,” says Fletcher. “They take care of everything for us and Larry Collins is a top-notch salesman.”

“The reset went smoothly. They were great guys and they all knew what they were doing,” remarks Barry Webb, general manager. “We have received nothing but compliments from customers.”

The RPM study also identified some weaknesses in their pricing, so they made the necessary adjustments. “We saw we were under on a lot of items. We know what our cost-sensitive items are,” Webb says. “We see improvement with more bids and more quotes and just a general increase in foot traffic.”

Webb also oversees a surplus outlet in Louisa, Ky., called Surplus Home Center, which opened in February 2010. It features a 15,000-square-foot salesfloor that sells cabinets, vanities, flooring, lighting, doors, windows, area rugs, shutters, sinks, mantels, furniture, door knobs, granite countertops and bath accessories—anything inside the home. “It’s been doing really well and it works well with the hardware store,” says Webb, who adds that cabinets and flooring have been the best-selling categories.

Fletcher is doing four circulars this year and he is planning to do more advertising in the future. Placing fliers in with statements produced good results. They have launched a Facebook page for Surplus Home Center, which alerts customers when a new truckload of product specials arrives. A web page and social media initiative are in the works for R&J, according to Fletcher.

The owner of the two businesses is James H. Booth, who purchased a building supply store in Lovely, Ky., in 1984 with a business partner named Roy Collier. They renamed it R & J Building Supply. It gave them access to building supplies necessary to construct a chain of Fastlane convenience stores. Booth started out as an underground coal miner while in college before launching his entrepreneurial career, which includes the development of a conglomerate coal group known as Booth Energy. Booth, who served a term on the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, was named the Outstanding College of Business Alumni at Morehead State University in 2000 and was the recipient of the prestigious Governor’s Economic Development Leadership Award in 2001.

With a Lowe’s store 30 miles away, Fletcher feels resetting the store will help keep people buying local. “We want to get into more pro sales and continue attracting more female customers. We’ve designed it to be a one-stop shop for them with the showroom we now have,” he says.