Builders Mall Sells Everything for the Home Under One Roof
With House-Hasson you’re a member of the family and not just customer number 555.
House-Hasson has customers close to home in Tennessee and some not so close—like the Bahamas.
That Bahamas customer is Mark Roberts, an entrepreneur who became a retailer almost by happenstance and now finds himself overseeing a bit of a home-related empire. He operates the Builders Mall in Nassau, a 130,000-square-foot building that comprises three home products businesses as anchors: Tile King, Paint Centre and a home center operation named FYP (Fix Your Place).
Roberts says his adventure in retailing all started with a trip to a trade show in Orlando five years ago. “My wife and I were exploring business options and kitchen and bath design was the hot topic,” he recalls. “By October 1 we had opened Tile King. The business was very successful.”
When one of their clients asked them to build their house in late 2004, Roberts went out and purchased two truckloads of plywood and a lot of other lumber. “That material arrived two days before we were forecast to take a direct hit from a hurricane,” he says. The plywood was being unloaded at Tile King when a radio celebrity drove by and then started announcing that Tile King was selling hurricane supplies. “It was crazy and within three hours we had 300 customers and we sold all the plywood, 1 x 6s and a mountain of other lumber products,” he adds.
And so the lumber business was born, the beginnings of a fast-growing concept that has evolved into a one-stop shop for the home. The Paint Centre was added when Roberts realized he needed a paint store to complement the lumber and flooring he was selling. He didn’t plan for it when designing the new building, so The Paint Centre operates as a standalone business for now. Eventually he intends to put the 4,000-square-foot paint business inside the 16,000-square-foot FYP space. Tile King takes up 8,000 square feet.
“All the businesses complement each other as they all related to the Builders Mall concept,” Roberts says. Future plans include the addition of a concrete block making plant, aggregate bagging facility, a retail appliance store and much more. “I want to continue the development of Builders Mall by adding the construction of houses from foundation to roof, as well as opening the real estate sales office as part of the package for the development side,” he adds. “Opening the architect/design firm and continuing to grow the business with our other retail joint venture partners and tenants is another element of the plan.”
Roberts has been doing business with House-Hasson for about three years, after evaluating several different wholesaler options. “With House-Hasson you’re a member of the family and not just customer number 555,” he says.
He gives high praise to his House-Hasson sales rep, George Breedon. “He’s the best. George does a great job and maintains a strong relationship with us. He’s quick to handle all our needs and concerns.”
Roberts captures about 70 percent of sales from contractors and the rest from homeowners, although he’s trying to get a more even split. Lumber is the top seller followed by tile, drywall products, general hardware and then paint.
Most of his products come from the United States, which is good because customers are familiar with U.S. brands. It is a little more challenging to get products to customers such as Roberts in international markets. “It takes longer for me to get anything as they have to load the cargo into a container or onto a flatrack and then ship the material by boat to Nassau,” he says. “In some cases it can add an extra two to three weeks to get products into the store.”
The three retail businesses use a merchandising style similar to that of U.S. retailers. Roberts has relied on House-Hasson’s expertise to assist with store planning, set up and merchandising. He finds the Dealer Markets are an excellent chance to learn about pricing and new products.
Like any successful business, the Builders Mall concept has attracted the attention of other companies in a competitive market. “With our business coming on the scene we took the level up a notch or two and now everyone is gunning for us,” Roberts says. “I can safely say that we have the best retail hardware showroom on the island.”
Having the right products is one thing, but you need someone to explain what to buy and how to use it. The company is blessed to have a dedicated staff of 85 full-time employees including a construction crew of 17. Several key employees have attended past House-Hasson Dealer Markets including Store Manager Tamboura Coleby and Buyer Keisha Farrington.
Although his business has been holding steady, Roberts says market conditions are less than ideal. “It is slower in our market just like in the U.S. The local banks have tightened up on their lending, which has slowed the housing business,” says Roberts, who is looking at ways to cut expenses and operate more efficiently. “It’s still a fun business to be in.”