Since former Morrison Supply executive Ranson Roussel started kitchen-and-bath master distributor The Distribution Point in 2003, it’s been all systems go.
Roussel reports TDP has seen steady sales growth every year since it’s been in business. “We’ve enjoyed solid growth the last 15 years,” says Roussel, who chatted with Supply House Times during the recent KBIS-IBS show in Orlando, Florida. These days, TDP works its magic to the wholesale-distribution and kitchen-and-bath dealer industry via its 22,000 SKUs at its 130,000-square-foot facility in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Ours is a complex inventory assortment and one that has a lot of things a typical showroom or wholesaler doesn’t want to carry,” says Roussel, now the sole owner, president and CEO of TDP after buying out the other company investors five years ago.
So how does a master distributor such as TDP continue to thrive in an ever-changing environment that has seen the master space shrink in recent times?
“We have a very empowered group of associates doing everything they can to delight their customers,” Roussel says. “That’s different in today’s world. This still is very much about relationships. We ran into customers (at KBIS-IBS) and one of the showroom associates gave me a big bear hug and told me that we bail them out all the time and that we are their heroes. That’s a very common sort of theme we hear. That’s our culture. We like to celebrate the wins and cheer each other on. When we have customers who are winning like that, it means we are winning.”
Roussel has watched TDP’s staff blossom since its inception, creating an even greater advantage for the master distributor. “We have great associates and we continue to hire great associates,” he says. “We have a bunch of talented people who enjoy what they do. It’s a fun story. We have a dozen or so people who have been with us more than 10 years. People continue to grow with the company. It’s exciting to take someone right out of high school or college, give them new opportunities and watch them grow. Some of our biggest account managers started with us when they were 20 or 21. To see them now running big pieces of our business and watching their careers progress is awesome.”
As one can see by Roussel’s words, customer service is the be-all and end-all at TDP. “We like to say customer service is our passion because it drives what we do,” TDP’s Director of Marketing and Communications Angi Stewart says. “Everything is about the customer from when the call comes in until that shipment arrives at the customer’s door.”
Roussel notes the master distributor’s online stock check is a popular tool that allows its customers instant insight and saves them time, again with the delight the customer mantra in mind. “We want to delight the customer from the first contact to the time their shipment arrives.”
To that point, Roussel notes the company has heavily invested in packaging materials, technologies and strategies.
“We spend a lot of time on packaging,” he says. “We ship a significant amount of vitreous china which is tough to do, so we invested in technology, molds and designs to make sure products arrive safe and sound. That’s a major customer touchpoint. If something arrives damaged, you have a big problem on your hands. It’s a delay in the process. We want to make sure they are delighted all the way through.”
Roussel says investments in ways to continually improve the customer experience are a must in TDP’s line of work. “Think about where we stand in the supply chain,” he starts. “The showroom calls us for a quick-ship item. That means something has gone wrong somewhere along the line. It means the manufacturer couldn’t ship it or maybe it was damaged in transit or they missed a spec — you name it. By the time they are getting to us, it’s not a want. It’s a need. We are able to fill that need.”
A new day
Roussel says partnering with like-minded manufacturers is a winning formula in today’s marketplace. “TDP is a force multiplier to manufacturers. We can scale what they do by turning a truckload into thousands of individual shipments.”
Roussel adds to his point by noting the manufacturing landscape has seen plenty of change at the leadership level in recent years. “When there is a frequent leadership change in management, it can lead to a lot of chaos,” he says. “If a company has a new VP of sales and a new president every six or 18 months, which is not uncommon, that presents disruption.
“There are manufacturers who have had 10 or 11 leadership changes in the last 15 years. It’s a very prevalent issue. Private equity has entered over the last few years. And by the nature of private-equity investment of buying and flipping those companies, it results in a new guy at the top and a new core management team and a new direction. While occasionally disruptive, our flexible nature enables us to pivot and support our manufacturer partners.”
Roussel also is seeing changes specific to the kitchen-and-bath space on the distribution and dealer end. “The disintermediation of the market is a concern,” he says. “Consolidation always is an issue and will happen. I do think the way the supply chain operates and what that evolves into is a concern. The value of the wholesaler and the kitchen-and-bath dealer to the consumer is very demonstrative. They stock local product, they spec product and they show product to consumers remodeling and building homes.”
At the same time, Roussel also is seeing TDP’s customers’ customers’ habits evolving. “Everybody’s customer-service expectation is at the Zappos and Amazon levels,” he says. “We make sure we are with the customer the whole way and they get that seamless transaction experience. As soon as an order is processed, it’s on a conveyor and the box is scanned and the customer sees that. It’s loaded on the truck and they see that via email with their invoice.”
Roussel says TDP is making investments to further strengthen its business with the wholesale-distribution and kitchen-and-bath dealer channel. The company recently hired industry veteran Danny Rumble as vice president of sales, wholesale-trade tasked with hiring a team to further serve that important channel. “It’s a customer we know and understand and a customer that adds a lot of value,” Roussel says. “We want to do business with people we like and respect.”
At the same time, TDP is excited about its near-term future, which includes the opening of a West Coast location, likely in the Las Vegas area, later this year. “That’s a big commitment but one that will enable us to push and cover some gaps we’ve had,” Roussel says. “We’ll be able to shorten transit time and go after more business out west and provide better service to our customers already there. Our goal always is to take care of our customers in the best fashion possible by providing same-day shipping on an incredible assortment of branded faucets and fixtures from leading manufacturers.”
In other words, delight the customer.
This article was originally titled “The Distribution Point delights its customers” in the February 2018 print edition of Supply House Times.