When ProSales surveyed remodelers in 2007 on what dealers could do to better serve them, we headlined the results "Keep Your Promises." Three years later, in December, we asked many of the same questions again. The result? "Keep Your Promises" remains a fitting summary. Our latest poll found remodelers still prefer their local building material dealer over the neighborhood big-box store. But it also indicated that dealers continue to run the risk of losing remodelers unless they treat them the way remodelers would like.

"In the heyday of home building prior to the recession, many LBM dealers drove the remodeler away to the home improvement warehouses, by treating them like second-class customers," says Jim Robisch of the Indianapolis-based Farnsworth Group, whose Specpan unit collected the information for the survey. "Then and now, the remodeler wants the same respect and service afforded the home builder." But at the same time, the problem areas–the places where remodelers say dealers could improve–likely are pain points precisely because remodelers lack the size and buying power of homebuilders. For instance, after the obvious call for lower prices, remodelers want dealers to provide a greater range of products, facilitate online ordering, and deliver smaller quantities.

"The remodeler presents a great opportunity to increase revenue ... but the dealer has to recognize their wants and needs are not the same as the home builder," Robisch says.

The nearly 500 remodelers nationwide who took part in the survey scored pro dealers 8.63 on overall service on a 1- to 10-point scale, but gave warehouse home centers only a 5.30 score. Local building suppliers even outscored the big boxes on pricing.

Half the respondents remodeled fulltime; 20% straddled the line between remodeling and new home construction. More than 70% percent did big projects like kitchen and bath remodels and deck/porch installations.

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