One of the most high-profile challenges facing Wolff Bros. Supply Co -- and other U.S. wholesalers -- is the rapid spread of the big-box home centers. Wolff Bros. competes by emphasizing service, says Marketing Manager Barb Lewis, who also oversees the showrooms.
"Our No. 1 goal is to find out what will work for the customer," Lewis explains.
The wholesaler operates showrooms in Medina and Akron, Ohio, and will open two more showrooms next year in Cleveland and Sandusky, Ohio.
Wolff Bros.' showrooms are not open to the general public. However, homeowners can visit through the VIP Treatment program.
Participating contractors and builders give their clients one of two Wolff Bros. VIP discount cards. One provides for a quote at the contractor's discounted price, and the other authorizes a direct cash sale to the homeowner. Either way, the participating contractor earns credits on the sales.
And in return for contractors sending homeowners to Wolff Bros., the company is happy to refer homeowners to them. If a homeowner is not working with a qualified contractor already, Wolff Bros. provides the names of local tradespeople.
Expanding the optionsNext year Wolff Bros. plans to improve uniformity of operations and hours among the showrooms. Both the Akron and Medina showrooms will be open Thursday evenings by appointment and Saturdays until noon. Currently only the Medina location has evening hours.
Wolff Bros. also has three showroom coordinators each providing expertise in a specific area: plumbing, electrical and cabinetry. The coordinators work with all the showrooms on merchandising in those areas.
"A showroom is like a living, breathing thing," Lewis says. "You have to groom it and feed it everyday."
The showrooms aren't the only things being fed at Wolff Bros. The company promotes its showrooms and counter sales areas with events such as pancake breakfasts or bratwurst lunches co-hosted by vendors.
The showrooms also are advertised in local newspapers and magazines for builders and architects.
On occasion the company invites realtors to one of the showrooms for a presentation and refreshments. And, Lewis says, it pays off. "Word of mouth advertising is the strongest."