Timely Deliveries Give Independents the Upper Hand Over Box Stores

By Alan Wolf, YSN

The ability to provide same- or next-day delivery and installation of replacement appliances has long been a key advantage of local dealers over national chains.

Today, despite manufacturing hiccups and unprecedented demand that’s pushed delivery windows out by days, independents are enjoying even greater popularity over box stores, which have been more profoundly impacted by current events.

Indeed, the advent of vendor-managed inventory, designed to relieve home improvement chains of costly overhead, has come back to bite them, with both Lowe’s and The Home Depot averaging about four weeks out on deliveries, BrandSource dealers report. And, adding insult to injury, sales associates at out-of-stock lumber stores are actually referring frantic appliance customers to local independents, members said.

“We’ve been getting business from Lowe’s and Home Depot for years,” said Becca Resch, General Sales Manager of Orville’s Home Appliances. But with the box stores presently hamstrung, “We’re getting additional business right now.”

Orville’s Becca Resch: “Having inventory is a 100-percent advantage over my competitors.

Unlike its home improvement competitors, Orville’s is sitting pretty, having loaded up its 75,000-square-foot distribution center and ancillary warehouse at the first whiff of pandemic. “We bought extremely heavy in March when it was available and were lucky that we could take all the product vendors could ship,” Resch said.

Still, business has been so brisk online and at its seven Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., showrooms that, save for emergencies, Orville’s longstanding same- or next-day delivery offer has been pushed out by a week. “It’s difficult to keep up with deliveries and installations,” Resch said. “The teams are working overtime, delivering seven days a week, and the service and delivery departments are always hiring.”

Resch attributes the company’s recent record-breaking business to the flow of stimulus and unemployment checks and to New York State’s extended lockdown. “The longer people were stuck at home, the more they would realize how much they needed a new range,” she said.

Orville’s is a week out on deliveries, compared to about a month for its big-box competitors.

But even with the delivery backlog, “Having inventory is a 100-percent advantage over my competitors,” Resch added.

Still, too much of a good thing can have its drawbacks. On a recent Rocky Mountain regional call-in, one member reported that pent-up consumer demand is also releasing pent-up anger when the item they want is on backorder. “There’s been some animosity on the part of customers,” he noted. “They assume the local guy’s going to have it. ‘Just order it!’ they say.”

Region President Jackie King, principal of Nampa Appliance TV & Mattress, helps quell customer frustration by embracing transparency. “I show them my inventory on my screen,” she said on the call. “I tell them, ‘If you need it today, these are your options.’”

In fact, King has been called a hero by some customers for delivering in-stock items the day they were ordered. “We stock what we sell,” she said. “That’s the difference between a store that sells appliances and an appliance store.”

Concluded King, “Some independents lost the replacement business to Lowe’s and Home Depot, but we have an opportunity to flip the tables if we can stay in stock.”

BrandSource is a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc.