Bissett’s comprehensive merchandising program is proven to increase sales and profitability. Our industry leading solutions are customized for your business.
Bissett has years of experience working with Industrial partners, specifically dealing with pallet, furniture, mattress, window, and relocatable structure / modular home builders.
Don't take our word for it, read about how we help our clients succeed.
Way back when Bissett was Lance Bissett, our company used to count a Dealer as someone who simply bought a few boxes of our fastener products. However since the evolution to become ‘Bissett’, we now count a Dealer as someone who is fully merchandised with our products and who is a true partner. They can have anywhere from 4 feet to 32 feet display in their store, as their size can vary but the commitment to partnership is the same. As we are nearly halfway through 2022, Bissett now has almost 500 Dealer Partners across the country. Reflecting on this milestone of 500 Dealers across Canada, we wanted to take some time to look back on where it all began and highlight some of our key Dealer Partners who helped us to get where we are today. This mini blog series will focus on Key Dealer Partners across Canada where we will sit down with those businesses to talk about partnership, and why they chose to work with Bissett.
The Bissett merchandising display that frequents building materials stores across the country wouldn’t exist without the partnership that was created with Slegg Building Materials. Founded in 1947, Slegg has worked to become the customer’s first stop for all their building needs. Whether you are a contractor working on a large-scale project, or a DIY weekend warrior, they have you covered. Approximately 80 percent of Slegg’s customer base are professional users, with the remaining 20 percent being DIY. With 10 locations across Vancouver Island and deep rooted history, they are the go to business to cover your building needs on the Island. Bissett began merchandising discussions with Slegg back in 2014, when Tim Urquhart joined the company. Formerly the President & CEO of the TIM-BR MART Group of Companies, Mr. Urquhart began working at Slegg in 2014 and is currently the President of the company. A few weeks back we sat down with Mr. Urquhart to talk about the relationship between Bissett and Slegg, and how that relationship has evolved over the years. Mr. Urquhart explains the company’s success that transpired over that time, and counts Bissett as the starting point for change within Slegg stores.
J. Carsky: It’s interesting to hear about Bissett being the first place of change for your store. Can you talk a little bit more about what inspired you to want to make any changes within Slegg?
T. Urquhart: Well when Slegg was sold to the new company, part of what needed to be done was to look for improvement within the business. We needed to turn it into a business that could generate the right type business, meaning we wanted a solid model built to last. Slegg is a distribution business, and we looked at modelling ourselves in comparison to Purolator or UPS or Coca Cola. As opposed to ‘how can we be a better building materials company’, we looked at ‘how can we be a better first-class distributor’. It goes back to having systems and processes, and to do that we need to have the right vendors who are willing to invest and get to that point. That’s where the new program from Bissett tied in beautifully with our timing where we wanted to focus more on our fastener category. It really was all about the timing.
J. Carsky: Would you say working with Bissett, that it’s kind of been more of a partnership?
T. Urquhart: Not only has it been a partnership, it’s been a collaboration. ‘Can we build the concept together that works inside your business?’. I really believe it’s been a back-and-forth. Everything down there [on the sales floor] today is a combination of Slegg and Bissett. It isn’t always right in the beginning, but having flexibility on both sides to get to the point where ‘OK this is working’ has really helped. We don’t always get that. We have had some very rigid suppliers who weren’t as willing to come up with a model that works for us and our business. We also have some pretty fixed ideas on how we’re going to sell a certain category, and we may not be willing to change to a different concept when we already have something in place that works for us. But with the Fastener category and working with Bissett, I think it was absolutely the right petri dish to begin this experiment and watch it grow. It certainly has worked for us and I’m pretty sure it’s worked for you as well.
J. Carsky: In terms of success for your business, I want to ask you what success looks like to you for your business and how has that worked pre and post Bissett?
T. Urquhart: One of the things that we set out to accomplish at Slegg was to look at the basket of goods our customers were buying, and analyze how much of that basket we were getting. In many cases we were getting the framing material, the wood products, but we weren’t getting the accessory products. So that was the tie in. Wood is a commodity, you’re selling at a market price. The market price can either be good for you or could be bad for you, it’s quite predictable and also very unpredictable, especially with the wild swings we have seen in the last 2 years. Whereas, typically accessory products are something that brings pricing and margin stability to your sales and bottom line.
So our objective was to expand, not lose any of our framing material or commodity business but add to it. We had the facilities and we had the money to invest in inventory, so let’s focus on the ones that customers are buying. All of our framing customers were buying fasteners. Were we getting all of that business? No. So we had to take a step back and say ‘why not?’, and ‘are we making it difficult for them to buy from us?’. Do we have what they need, do we have the breadth of line and even the depth of knowledge when it comes to all the things that they are looking for. Are we set up right? That was the thought process of what we were going through and how the tie-in with Bissett’s merchandising was so ideal as it lends itself to selling.
J. Carsky: What would you say some of the biggest challenges you faced with your business have been?
T. Urquhart: Well two big ones. Number one would be labour. Not just the difficulty of attracting labour to our industry to work, but also in the amount of time that we’ve chalked up to sick days or people not coming into work out of valid fear of contracting covid. It left us quite short, and we had to adjust. We used to have four locations that were open on Sundays, for now we don’t have any. And one fewer location is open on Saturday’s. We adjusted our hours to tighten things up, and to make accommodations for the labour pool while making sure we were open when our pro customers needed us to be.
On the inventory front it’s really been supply chain issues. Rising costs are a factor but fortunately the end product is also increasing in cost and keeping up with cost inflation. But getting the material and making sure that we have the flow for our business, especially when labour has been so tough in the industry, not just for us but for our customers as well, has been a big challenge.
When a customer finally does get scheduled and they’re able to put a crew together that can build something, we as a distributor better make sure that we’ve got the material to keep the job going. If we let them down, after they’ve waited 3 weeks to get that crew onsite that’s a really bad reflection on us. So we’ve had to be creative! Bissett has been really good but of course there have been challenges, not relating to Bissett but just a case of how the world has been right now – no containers to transport goods – lack of trucking, etc. We’ve had to backfill. Slegg has always had a mandate that we go out of our way not to say no to a customer when it comes to filling orders. If we can’t get it from you [Bissett] and we can’t get it from another wholesale supplier, we go to a box store. We do whatever it takes to fill that order. At that point it isn’t about profitability, it’s about doing the right thing for our customer which we go out of our way to do.
J. Carsky: Would you say that you have a pretty loyal customer base if you’re applying that level of dedication and commitment to their orders?
T. Urquhart: When I joined the company 8 years ago and came on board with Slegg, it was to package up the company and sell it. The first thing I noticed was how deep the relationship between our sales team and our customer base is. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a 75 year old company and many of those relationships are long standing. In lots of cases they are multi-generational. The grandparents started the business and then the parents came in, and now the kids are running it. Our sales team have been very good at making sure that they’re not just customers, they are friends and family. You don’t want to let your friends and family down, and that’s how it’s looked upon and that’s how strong that bond is.
D. Daly: I will never forget the first time I went down to the Nanaimo store and I know it’s been renovated but the center was like this country club, and the people were all huddled around talking about their weekends and the weather, addressing each other by first names. And I had never seen that.
T. Urquhart: Yes exactly, and big business here is transacted in that manner. It’s different, I had never seen anything like it either. It’s nice to be in it, you know even though I’m still a Calgarian in some of their minds, I feel merged into the culture. To have been here for 8 years, a part of it and the many positive changes has been pretty cool.
J. Carsky: Definitely. Thinking about people and peoples perception of Bissett, and rather Lance Bissett, how would you say that has changed over the last 8 years in terms of how people perceive the brand?
T. Urquhart: Well, I don’t actually believe, from a contractor perspective, that Lance Bissett was a brand. I think Lance Bissett was behind the scenes and even from a distributor perspective, you were a supplier to us. So, I think you’ve been able to take the Lance Bissett company and create a brand. I think Bissett now is a brand. Customers come in and they are buying a product that’s Bissett branded. We certainly look at Bissett as a brand, and as a true strategic partner for us to be able to make more money and work with. It’s been an incredible transformation, all of it good.
J. Carsky: In terms of innovation and the Bissett brand, have there been specific things that we’ve done over the last couple of years that stand out in terms of setting us apart?
T. Urquhart: The Fastener Finder for one. I think your ability to scan and marry up products is leading edge in our industry. Maybe not in the world, but definitely in our industry so I think you’re ahead of the curve. I don’t believe that the end user has really caught on to just how powerful that tool [the Fastener Finder] really is. But internally it’s used all the time. Slegg staff use the scan function, and more and more customers will. There is no doubt that QR codes are being used more and more every day. I think Covid may have helped accelerate that because whether it’s in entertainment or dining, people are really getting more comfortable with that scanning function and making it a part of how they transact their lives let alone business.
There’s more to it too, no matter where you are in the world, but for sure North America, there are help wanted signs everywhere. There is a shortage of people regardless of the industry. Anything that businesses can do to make it easier to self-serve will help provide a better customer experience. Because even if you wanted to give someone a positive in store experience with person to person contact, you cannot. There aren’t enough people. So we’ve got to find ways, use technology, to decrease the amount of need for that face to face contact. The more comfortable people get with that type of tool, the easier we make it for them, especially if we have less staff in our stores.
We all need to do a lot more of what you are doing, and since Bissett is already doing it, the rest of us need to embrace it and encourage it. We need to do a better job of telling our customers about it. Make it easier on yourself. Make it easier on your jobsite person that you’re sending in to pick up material so that you don’t have to wait 10 minutes for them to pick out the correct product. This Fastener Finder tool is so valuable for time management.
Thank you to Tim for participating in our Key Dealer Partner Series! For more information on Slegg Building Materials you can visit their website !
Use our hashtag #bissettonsite to get featured