In 2015, Central Valley Builders Supply, in Napa, Calif., tended to make product and inventory decisions based on limited data—that is, until Michelle Valdez joined the company that year as a category business manager.

“Prior to my coming aboard … some vendors had a history of pushing product, not necessarily considering local or specific factors, which didn’t always work well for us,” Valdez says. “We weren’t always challenging them to manage the real estate they were occupying in our stores.”

So, Valdez, 38, implemented a category management strategy, leveraging tools such as Epicor BisTrack, customized dashboards, and Excel, enabling her to evaluate turn, sell-through, space to sales, and GMROI (gross margin return on investment) to ensure that the company is maximizing profitability. The analytics gleaned from these efforts, plus an eye toward an ever-changing marketplace, enabled Valdez to make more informed resource allocation decisions, effectively improving product assortment, pricing, promotion, space allocation, and category location efforts. This eventually prompted 12 major resets across six departments in two stores.

Toward the end of 2018, the company experienced significant increases in the reset areas. Program gains included a 38% increase in fastener sales and a 31% jump in power tool and hardware sales. Apparel grew 26%, with a simultaneous 42% decrease in inventory.

Partners took notice as well. “Even some of our billion-dollar vendors asked Michelle to educate them on how she looks at our business [to help them and their customers stay competitive]. That’s being a leader in LBM,” says Garret Ippolito, Central Valley’s chief marketing officer.