Branching into big box retailers and marketplaces as a building materials manufacturer is a big step towards reaching more people at the contractor and customer level. Having support from national retailers like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Menard's, and even Amazon allows you to build strategic partnerships and grow your brand by being available to more audiences, in retail stores and online.
Benefits of Selling in Big Box Retailers
Choosing a path to market between different big box retailers like Lowe’s or Home Depot or through online marketplaces, like Amazon, can be difficult. While online sales of just about everything are on the rise, physical retailers are still valuable for building materials. In fact, in 2019, home improvement retail was growing at double the rate of the rest of the retail industry.
Home improvement projects are on the rise, in part because the average age of homes in the U.S. is going up, leading to more repair projects on older houses. This is also in part due to the Millennial generation buying older, fixer-upper homes and taking on larger projects in smaller—often DIY—bites, which leads to smaller quantities of materials needed, and convenient availability of materials to regular consumers.
Gaining Customers Through Convenience
Availability in retailers is important for many building products categories to allow your customers—whether they’re DIYers, builders, or clients of builders—to experience the products and compare items that they can see and touch in person. Even though many consumers conduct online research, they still regularly head into the store when they’re ready to get those final details and make the purchase. For some consumers, going to Lowe’s IS the more convenient option than ordering online.
Build Strategic Partnerships
While getting your foot in the door with a major retailer may take some time, when you start seeing success with the partnership, you open up more opportunities. Successful retail partnerships can lead to collaborations on new products with those retailers so you can potentially gain valuable customer purchase knowledge—if you can convince a retailer that it’s worth their time to report the information to you. Better yet, add value to your retail partners by generating POP data and insights and sharing those insights with them. Having proof your products do well in one retailer can also help leverage your brand in conversations with other retailers, as well.
Using Data When Pitching to Big Box Retailers
When pitching your products to a big box retailer, you’ll need data. National chains like Lowe’s and Home Depot don’t carry products just for the sake of carrying them—they have to sell through, and often quickly. If a product doesn’t sell, they’ll stop stocking it.
Being able to show that your products fit well with what customers are looking for in their store helps retailers make data-driven decisions. Remember, as a supplier to a big box retailer, you’re working in a partnership that should be mutually beneficial.
When pitching to a retailer, use the following to show your products are sought after by their customers:
- Trend reports
- Demonstrate the customer profile for your materials is in line with their customers
- Demonstrate your success with other retailers, if applicable
- Own the burden of generating demand for your product to drive in-store traffic to the retailer
- Minimize the risk for retailers to carry your products by proving low product return rates and high customer satisfaction
Developing & Leveraging Retailer Partnerships
Once you have your foot in the door with one retailer and start seeing sales roll through, you have more opportunities both with that retailer and others. For example, if your products are selling like hot cakes at a retailer, they may come to you to collaborate on developing products specific for their store. This can be extremely useful for product development because you’ll have more data from an experienced retailer to help create a product that’s guaranteed to sell well in that store.
One retail partnership also helps open doors for partnerships in other retailers. When you have data showing your products do sell well in the retail space, you can use that as leverage when negotiating with other retailers. Proof that your products have a demand in the market can also demonstrate to a retailer that if they don’t carry the product—their customers will find a competitor retailer or online marketplace to buy it from, instead.
How to Become a Home Depot Supplier
You can apply online to become a Home Depot Supplier using their New Product Submission form. After completing the application, a member of the Home Depot Merchant Team will be in contact with you for more information within 60 days.
The Home Depot has a wide selection of raw materials when it comes to building supplies, and they’re less focused on items like home decor. They’re a trusted retailer where contractors and other pros frequent for additional supplies or even place large orders. When completing your product submission application, you’ll want to keep these aspects in mind and explain how your product fits into the Home Depot brand.
If you are rejected from the Home Depot Supplier program, you can reapply again in six months.
Supplier Diversity Program
Another important aspect of the Home Depot’s brand is their dedication to diversity within their supplier network. The Home Depot has a separate application process for suppliers who are majority-owned by women, minorities, Veterans, LGBTQ persons, or persons with disabilities. There are some special stipulations when applying to become part of their diverse supplier network, such as certification from a third party organization, so be sure to examine their qualifications closely.
How to Become a Lowe's Supplier
To start the process of becoming a supplier for Lowe’s, you have to register in their Prospective Supplier Database. Unlike the Home Depot, registration through Lowe’s Prospective Supplier Database doesn’t expire—so you don’t have to reapply for consideration. As Lowe’s needs new supplier opportunities, they will search their database for a supplier who can address that need.
In your company profile within their Prospective Supplier Database, it’s important to frame your brand and products within the Lowe’s brand. In general, Lowe’s has a greater focus on design and offers a wider selection in home decor from other big box hardware retailers in addition to selling raw materials and tools.
Their customer base leans more toward DIYers than pros; however, pros will still shop Lowe’s if they’re looking for something specific a client’s asking for. Addressing how your product helps their ideal customer profiles or proving there is a demand for your product among their customers is going to be crucial when getting into the Lowe’s supplier network.
How to Become a Menard's Supplier
You can also apply online to become a supplier for Menard’s. As a discount retailer, Menard’s is always looking for opportunities to give their budget-conscious customers a good deal. They offer a variety of supplier partnerships, including:
- Direct container imports
- One time deals and volume buys
- Closeouts and factory overstocks
If you have inventory that you can offer at a discount, Menard’s will be more likely to buy and stock your product. Because they offer one time deals and closeout buys, their inventory changes more often than other retailers might, which could give you more opportunities to get your products on their shelves.
These one time deals may also be a way to start testing retail with your products without needing to invest in a larger contract deal, and it can give you some important data for how to proceed with a Menard’s relationship or other retail partnerships. Additionally, they claim to pay their suppliers faster than other retailers.
Online Shopping for Building Materials
Nowadays, almost every retailer has an online store for many of their products, and nearly every product category can benefit from online availability—yes, even building materials! Ecommerce for building materials can help drive sales in a few different ways:
- Minimum orders for materials create efficiency for manufacturers
- Customers use online listings to learn more about a product they plan to buy in a retailer
- Online orders can make transport possible for small contractors and DIYers
Minimum Orders for Efficiency Online
One reason you may have overlooked online orders as a building materials manufacturer is that—at the end of the day—it’s costly and inefficient to ship one or two pieces of materials like lumber, roofing, and siding. Applying a minimum order makes online ordering more cost-effective for you as the manufacturer while still offering the convenience of online purchasing to your builders, contractors, and DIYers.
Online Learning Translates to In-Store Purchases
When people are looking for a new product, they look it up online first. Whether this is a contractor looking into a product they haven’t used before that they heard about or had a client request or a customer looking to take on a project themselves, they’re probably starting with Google to see what they can find out before they go to a store.
Online product listings, similar to what you see on any ecommerce site, give a potential buyer a rundown of information about the product and, sometimes, reviews from others who’ve used it. Then when they go into the physical store, they have the information they need to make a confident purchase.
Enabling Small Contractors & DIYers
A small contractor or builder might not have the vehicles, equipment, or manpower needed to pick your products up and transport them to the build site. Online ordering for products they can't transport themselves allows the materials to be delivered onsite, opening up your products and brand to the market of new and growing builders and contractors.
Additionally, more people are taking on larger home renovation projects themselves—but the average person doesn’t have the capabilities to pick up large quantities of materials. Online ordering enables advanced DIYers to work with you and your products. These types of customers can also be good sources of user-generated content for social media when they share progress photos online.
Selling Building Materials on Amazon
Building materials for sale on Amazon? You bet! Listing your building materials on Amazon isn’t just a way to generate sales, it’s also helpful for search engine optimization. Amazon has a high domain authority, meaning if someone searches for kitchen backsplashes, your kitchen backsplashes listed on Amazon are very likely to compete against similar Amazon listings on the first page of search results.
Becoming an Amazon Supplier
You can easily sign up online to become a supplier on Amazon. In addition to a monthly subscription fee, there’s fees associated with each item sold, and these vary, but typically include:
- Referrals fees calculated based on the product’s category
- Shipping selected by the customer
- Fulfillment fees, if you’re storing products at an Amazon fulfillment center
Getting in on Prime Shipping
Amazon’s Prime two-day shipping is possible because of their distribution centers around the world. You can sell on Amazon without keeping stock in their distribution centers—in fact, they only stock their biggest sellers, just like a physical retailer—and you wouldn’t be required to keep up with the two-day shipping demand. However, if you are sending stock to Amazon distribution centers, you can benefit from the consumer joy of receiving orders in a few days.
Amazon Helps Their Sellers
Amazon sellers have access to different selling, inventory management, and analytics tools that can help you improve your Amazon strategy or inform other decisions, like other retail partnerships or product development. Depending on your relationship with Amazon, you can even receive advice from their analysts on pricing or selection that’ll help you sell more on their platform.
Selling Building Products Through Zoro
Zoro is an online retailer tailored specifically to manufacturers, contractors, and other business services like janitorial and grounds maintenance services. Offering everything from tools to tape, Zoro is a retailer focused on being a one-stop online shop for their customers.
As an eCommerce partner, Zoro offers digital marketing for their suppliers, and is a great online retail option for building materials brands who don’t have the resources to generate reach online. Zoro also views growing their supplier network as a way to grow customers by having a more comprehensive selection, curated for a B2B audience. If you’re trying to reach contractors and builders specifically, Zoro is the online retailer for you.
Applying to sell on Zoro starts with completing their online form.