It wasn't an accident that Colonial Heights, Va.–based Roper Bros. Lumber wound up hosting its annual sales meeting at a Timberlake cabinet plant in Winchester, Va. “We've grown into kitchens over the last three years through intent,” says Roper Bros. president John Farrar. “We're trying to develop an entire [profit center] rather than just a line of product that we have to offer. Today cabinets are over 5 percent of our business, and we want to grow that to 7 or 10 percent.”
The increased attention to cabinet markets at Roper Bros., a four-unit pro dealer with $60 million in annual sales, mirrors Timberlake's recent distribution push into the pro dealer sector, according to Timberlake vice president of professional markets Gary Rosenfield. In addition to developing merchandising, sales support, product training, and delivery programs, Timberlake has made a concerted effort to improve product lead times for pro dealers with contractors on tight building schedules.
“Timberlake's cycle times have improved …,” says Seth Teitelbaum, director of sales for a Builders FirstSource location in East Brunswick, N.J. “We're going to sell $20 million worth of cabinets this year, and their delivery dependability makes them a key vendor.”
Farrar is on the same page. Roper Bros. sold $3 million worth of cabinet lines last year, and short lead times from vendors were a necessity when construction activity spiked in the third and fourth quarters, making the traditional fall cabinet sales season a hectic affair. “When a cabinet manufacturer has longer lead times, it doesn't affect the remodeler as much, but for the home builder that has closing schedules that are in demand, it taxes the product line when lead times start hitting five, six, seven weeks,” Farrar says, adding that Timberlake consistently meets a two to two-and-a-half week lead time.
In this case, the key for both dealer and vendor success has been capital investments in capacity and facilities. “In the last three to four years we have invested an upwards of $100 million in new manufacturing capacity, including assembly plants, component plants, and finishing facilities,” says Rosenfield. “For example, we set up a new assembly plant in Oklahoma to service the central parts of the country that were being serviced from Nevada or Georgia. That certainly cuts lead times by getting plants closer to the marketplace.”
On the dealer end, Roper Bros. will open a stand-alone cabinet showroom selection center in Richmond, Va., by April, spearheading an investment package that also will include improvements to the company's countertop manufacturing facilities and construction of a new design center in the Fredericksburg, Va., market.
Rosenfield, for one, thinks more dealers should investigate cabinets as a possible profit center. “Cabinets are a good complementary business, especially when you are dealing with small- to medium-sized builders,” he says. “Anytime you are not offering a product line, you are sending somebody somewhere else, and ultimately that becomes a competitive issue.”