Jones Stephens made major industry headlines this summer when it was announced Ferguson had acquired the plumbing specialty products master distributor from World and Main. About a month after the acquisition, Supply House Times headed to Jones Stephens headquarters in Moody, Alabama, to talk to Interim President Bryan Yeazel, Senior Vice President, Sales, Marketing and Product Development Michele Hudec and Vice President, Plumbing Wholesale National Field Sales Christopher Rohling about the acquisition, the plethora of new products it has, as well as what the future holds for the company.
What does the Ferguson acquisition mean for Jones Stephens?
BY: It’s very important to find the right type and amount of capital that people are willing to invest in a business. Jones Stephens already is a strong business, but this infusion of resources will allow us to be even stronger and faster in terms of bringing products to market. We’re focused on providing premier levels of service and quality to our customers at a competitive price on more than 18,000 SKUs. This investment allows us to rapidly expand our development of new products and to optimize the supply chain. It’s great for our customers, our independent reps and our associates.
How are you communicating the acquisition to your distributor customers?
CR: We still have a unique value proposition and the vast majority of our customers have had a positive reaction. With a couple customers, we’ve been disappointed that they have made different decisions, but we are excited about our new owner and the ability we have to move forward. We are strongly committed to the health of the entire plumbing wholesale supply chain.
BY: Supply chains are rapidly changing around the world. Take Apple for example. A lot of people don’t realize the screens on Apple phones are produced by Samsung, which is unusual because Samsung is Apple’s biggest mobile competitor. The reason Apple buys Samsung screens is it is the best way to generate profitability for their business. Our view here is that this is the nature of the global supply chain these days. Ferguson is a multi-national enterprise that makes dozens of investments each year and Jones Stephens is just one of them. We are glad we can leverage the capital provided by their investment to enhance our value proposition. When our customers have the time to consider the full facts we believe our value proposition will win out 10 out of 10 times. This investment is only good for our customers in the long term.
What are some of the new products Jones Stephens is rolling out in the marketplace?
MH: It’s been a productive year for us. We’ve introduced an entire offering of stud guards (many of them produced in the Moody, Alabama facility). This spring we debuted a private-label poly-insulation line we are excited about. In October we will have a soft launch of two families of bath faucets and a full collection of kitchen faucets and then a big splash in January when we will have a full collection of builder-grade faucets for multifamily and renovation-type jobs.
Our goal with everything we introduce is to make it simpler for the contractor to install products and save time on the jobsite. We sell kits for the jobsite through distribution. We can customize specific bathroom and kitchen kits for multifamily where getting those to the jobsite in their own packages saves time, money and space. This makes it easier for our customers and their customers to do business with us.
What does the slogan “We Got It” mean to Jones Stephens?
MH: With 14 categories and more than 18,000 SKUs we almost always have it. When a customer is looking for a hard-to-find product or one of their vendors lets them down and they need something immediately they can be very confident they can call us and there will be an excellent chance we have it in stock. Customers love doing business with us because we make it easy for them and add simplicity to their day.
What’s new on the customer-service, technology end of things?
MH: In addition to having EDI and VMI systems in place, we recently implemented touchless orders that go into one mailbox and then get spread throughout the organization before being sent to the floor. Nobody touches a piece of paper. It’s made us far more efficient.
What markets are you making the biggest push into?
MH: Jones Stephens has a diversified business which is why we have been so successful. We target a lot of business, including multifamily and single-family homes, but multifamily benefits especially from our customized kitting process where if a building has 800 units, every unit can be supplied with the same installation kits. Additionally, the implementation of front-of-counter merchandising solutions has been an extremely successful initiative for us this year. Great counter merchandising is what keeps the customer from having to make multiple stops to get everything they need for the jobsite, allowing our distributor partners to be their customers’ one-stop-shop for all their project needs.
What makes Jones Stephens unique in the marketplace?
CR: We judge ourselves by whether our customers have an outstanding experience with us, including service, quality and ease of partnership. We have great associates and a marvelous group of independent reps that pride themselves on delivering best-in-class service. There is nobody that offers the exact bundle of products and value-added services we do today, which allows our customers to minimize the number of vendors they have to transact with. We’ve built a global supply chain with our vast suite of products. It comes down to Jones Stephens delivering the right products that provide value to our customers at the right place, at the right time and at the right price.
What does the future hold for Jones Stephens?
BY: Jones Stephens is a high-growth business with a very robust product-development function and a mature global supply chain. With new investment comes new opportunity to grow and improve our business. That’s great and we welcome it. We will leverage every resource we have to deliver value to our customers. We have the best customer base in the industry and are focused like a laser on delivering extraordinary value to them. In general, it’s business as usual at Jones Stephens.