Wolseley’s North American division’s Stock Building Supply and Ferguson operations jointly hosted a large booth at the International Builders Show in Orlando this year as part of its effort to better meet builders’ needs. “We started with a booth at this show three years ago,” said Steve Petock, vice president/residential business group at Wolseley North America. “This is a great opportunity for us in North America to get close with Stock, help explain what we can do together and be one face to the customer. It benefits us to get the word out. People didn’t understand we were one company. Now we can work together and share a lot of information.”
The three entities in North America are becoming more like one, said Jim Feltman, chief marketing officer, senior vice president strategy at Wolseley North America. “Each month that goes by we work more closely together and share best practices.” Stock and Ferguson also are recruiting together at colleges. Now people’s career paths can cross between the two companies, providing broader options. “We have 40,000 associates, including Wolseley Canada, and we are growing day by day,” said Feltman.
Further, many of the leaders at Wolseley’s North American Division today rose through the ranks at Ferguson, Stock Building Supply or Wolseley Canada, Feltman pointed out. Signage in the booth, which was constructed like the framing of a house, alerted visitors to the products and services available: windows and doors, custom doors and staircases, framing cabinets and countertops, flooring, millwork, lumber, roofing and roof trusses. “Stock’s business is driven by the customer,” said Steve Short, North American vice president of builder sales. “We try to provide solutions when we blend Stock and Ferguson in a facility. We respond to customers’ needs in a specific market.”
For example, Stock and Ferguson have been working together in the New Orleans area to help rebuild communities. Whether the need is for utilities, HVAC, cabinets, engineered wood products, framing lumber, millwork, fire protection or fabrication, everything is under one roof. Whether purchasing products or resolving issues, the customer only needs to contact one location, said John Posey, senior vice president/business groups at Wolseley’s North American Division.  “We can hone in on the customer to meet his needs,” said Jeff Cash, director of marketing & strategy at Ferguson.
Now both plumbers and builders can be served in one location. This also creates greater efficiency in deliveries. “In New Orleans we were able to deliver lumber and pipe on one truck rather than sending two different trucks,” Cash said. Both Stock and Ferguson are participating in destination showrooms, where they can offer customers a wide range of products, expertise and upgrade possibilities, Petock said. Stock also offers financing via its partnership with Wells Fargo. 
Both construction and permanent options are available to the builder and consumer.  “Our showrooms cater to the professional and trade,” Cash said. “Our primary focus is on the customer attached to a professional, the do-it-for-me vs. do-it-yourself.”



Wolseley’s operations currently do not sell much product on the Internet, Cash said. “Electronic solutions and technology will be critical in the future for product selection, to research projects.  Technology can reduce the customer’s selection time in the showroom. When someone is spending money on a project, they want to touch and feel the products, which is not an option on the Internet. Our focus with technology is to enhance our investments in bricks and mortar and relationships with our customers.” At both Stock and Ferguson, salespeople are equipped with tablet PCs, laptops with digital cameras and a wireless card. They can use a stylus to make notations and then send a picture with notes when they need an immediate decision. This minimizes downtime and provides for a higher level of service for the customer.


Pushing Green

Wolseley’s North American Division is trying to educate builders on Green Building. Training sessions were held three times a day with industry pro Steve Easley at the booth during the Builders Show. The message conveyed was that “green” does not only refer to the materials used but to how they are installed. “It’s also about educating our associates so they are not just pushing products,” Posey said. “They can work with their customers and sell environmentally friendly ways to do business.” More green products are showing up in the commercial plumbing arena. “We are seeing more touchless commercial faucets and waterless urinals,” Cash said. Both have appeal to those interested in water conservation. Builders are asking for water-conserving products, Petock said. “If they can tag themselves as ‘green builders,’ it is a competitive advantage in the market. They want to get into it early.” There is also more awareness of global warming issues - people are concerned about polluting the atmosphere, Feltman said.


Commercial Sales Are Up

Sales of commercial plumbing products have been growing, Petock noted. “We are seeing innovation and technology.” Recently there have been more efforts to include style in the commercial arena. In some cases residential products are being used in commercial applications. Chrome remains the leading finish in commercial but products are being designed with more curves and different sizes and styles of handles, Cash said.


Segmented Business

Baby Boomers, who today control 70% of the wealth in North America, are one customer segment that Wolseley’s North American Division can address, Feltman said. Baby boomers seek convenience and comfort, are energy conscious and many use hydronic heat in their homes, he added. “These are challenging times,” Feltman noted. “Wolseley is so successful because it does not focus on just one particular segment. The builders community is very important, but so is commercial, industrial, repair and remodel. Addressing different segments helps buoy us up during difficult times.” Added Petock, “We prefer to have all those segments going full speed ahead at any one time to help insulate us [from market fluctuations].”  The new housing sector is expected to improve in 2008, Cash said. “We don’t expect housing starts to be quite as high as they once were, but it appears they will move forward,” he noted. “We’re still in a pretty robust economy,” Cash continued. “We are cautiously optimistic moving forward. By working together we will leverage our distribution capabilities and get products in our customers’ hands more quickly and efficiently.”