Industry veteran Jeff MacDowell saw an opportunity staring at him that he couldn’t pass up.
MacDowell started his PHCP career in the Buffalo, New York area and then worked for Hajoca and APR Supply (where he first was bit by the showroom bug) in Pennsylvania before becoming senior director of showrooms for F.W. Webb. He was also active in the buying group APR Supply and F.W. Webb are part of, giving him a fee for what is expected.
“I saw an opportunity to help close to 260 showrooms and thought it was a great opportunity,” says MacDowell, who spoke to Supply House Times at the recent KBIS-IBS show in Orlando, Florida. “I saw an opportunity to build on an organization with a great reputation, and working with John Aykroyd from Omni is like a dream come true. Now, I can help showrooms with services such as marketing, training and merchandising. That’s right up my alley.”
And since taking over last fall, MacDowell has hit the ground running. In addition to meeting with LPG members and vendor partners, he’s brought the DXV by LIXIL and Barber Wilsons product lines into the group with LPG being the first buying group to have the DXV line. The group also has undergone a rebranding campaign and debuted a new website in January.
But beyond product lines and buying power for the group of 116 members operating more than 250 showrooms, MacDowell wants LPG, which debuted in 2009, to look at the total package moving forward.
“I saw a group of members who needed help with communication and training when it comes to going to the next level,” he says. “Everybody has competitive pressures whether it’s Amazon or someone else. You need to have both the online capability and an incredible showroom experience. I want to help the group with not just products, but service providers that help give that experience. We also need to be able to measure what we do, from foot traffic to web traffic. We have to work on things together to provide the shopping experience today’s customer, especially the millennial, wants.”
MacDowell says the need of a buying group focused on the luxury end of the market is more important than ever for the independent distributor. “You must have members focused and supporting the vendors of the buying group,” he says. “You need best-practice sharing and listen to the victories and struggles. Get better together. The distributor needs to think as a retailer. That’s the biggest transition right now. Some of the stores don’t have the best locations for showrooms. They need to depend on their people — their most important asset — to get customers in the door. They also should make sure the hours fit the buying habits of the consumers. There is a lot to consider. Hopefully I can provide the coaching to facilitate those best practices and make LPG the best buying group in the country.”
MacDowell notes the group has about 80 vendor partners on its roster. “We are being very careful who we curate into the group,” he says. “We don’t want to be everything to everybody. We don’t want every faucet manufacturer. We want to make sure we have the best of the best. I have to listen to my member and vendor partners because luxury means different things to different markets.”
MacDowell has both a short- and long-term game plan. “Short-term, it’s rebranding and growing our membership,” he says. “Long-term, it’s creating the complete package. It’s not just decorative plumbing, and kitchen appliances, but it’s moving into lighting, virtual and augmented reality, and becoming a comprehensive training site and marketing partner for our members. We will provide all the tools necessary to make our showrooms best in class. I want to continue the rich history of LPG and carry the torch forward.”