Rebates and spirits high at Do it Best Fall Market

Do it Best members certainly had something to celebrate despite the fact that sales for the co-op were down 3.1% to just under $2.4 billion. The company managed to secure more than $100.6 million in rebates for its members.

The news was announced at the Fort Wayne, Ind.-based co-op’s annual shareholders meeting Sunday, during their 2010 Fall Market in Indianapolis.

Sales through retail service centers declined by 4.3%, direct sales were down 5.2%, but lumber was up 7.2%, according to the company. The full financial report will be released later this week.

President and CEO Bob Taylor attributed the company’s large member rebates during a weak economy to upgrades in the company’s logistics and order fill systems.

“You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust the sails, and I think our team did exactly that this past year as we delivered another solid year of performance,” he said.

Taylor attributed the company’s strong performance to the installation of its new voice-pick system, called Jennifer, which reduced the amount of time and mistakes made in filling orders and helped trim warehouse returns in excess of 11% from last year.

The company also reduced its outbound freight costs by 4.2%, or $1.9 million and cut more than 1 million delivery miles.

Taylor said the company’s industrial commercial sector (INCOM) represented the strongest performing division, and saw more than 60 new members in fiscal 2010.

Taylor urged members to find ways to drive excitement into their businesses. He used the example of Indianapolis-based Sullivan Hardware’s recent Eggfest, a music and barbecue festival centered around the Big Green Egg.

“How many of you all have actually charged your customers admission to come into one of your sales?” Taylor asked the crowd. “Pat [Sullivan] charged $10 a head to come in and had people drive in from Ohio to come in for Eggfest.”

The meeting also saw the appointment of Pat Sullivan to chairman of the board of directors, succeeding Mike Fujimoto of Hilo, Hawaii-based HPM Building Supply.

Fujimoto talked of the hardships his family’s company endured since its inception at the turn of the century, including being seized by the U.S. Navy during World War II under the War Powers Act, as well as rebuilding twice after tsunamis destroyed the business in 1946 and 1960.

“My family and the company were able to make it through all of these setbacks because we remained faithful to the core purpose and values that defined who we are. … We live and die by these values,” Fujimoto said.

“I look back on the history of HPM, and perseverance is woven throughout,” he said.