Tom: I think I would add zooming to the industry life we are in.
Sandy: Agreed. But fun it is!
Tom: Sandy, what is your topic for our readers this month?
Sandy: Well, I have been talking to vendors around the area and even vendors in Phoenix to see what they do if they cannot readily supply a needed item to a home project. It seems that if the vendor cannot supply an item to the contractor in order to complete their job at hand, or the material is back-ordered, contractors are going online to purchase items for new homes and remodels. What would you do if you were faced with this dilemma?
Tom: We have, from time to time, purchased items online when we cannot find what we need locally or something is on backorder that can potentially delay the job.
Sandy: I know that you, Tom, and so many of our other contractors and local business men and women and our citizens’ first stop is supporting our local vendors first. That is not only smart but good business practice as well. Supporting local should always be first!
Tom: Absolutely. We look at the locally owned stores first and the larger companies that have served us for decades.
Sandy: Tom, for our readers, when you buy local, more money stays in the community. When you spend money at locally owned businesses, it is pretty easy to understand that those dollars directly impact the local economy, as they keep local businesses in business. The multiplier effect is the amount of local economic activity that is triggered by the purchase of any one item. Community economics tells us that the more a dollar circulates in a defined region, and the faster it circulates, the more income, wealth and jobs it creates.
Keeping dollars local is an act of reinvestment in your community. Buying local products and services and banking locally keeps money circulating closer to where you spend it. This creates a ripple effect as those businesses and their employees in turn spend your money locally. Corporate chains send most of our money out of town. Okay, I am off my soapbox!
Tom: Very true. We believe in local; however, there are times when we are unable to purchase what we need locally, so we must purchase item online.
Sandy: I say shop local, except, I admit, I am an online shoe shopper. There are perils to online shoe shopping as well as benefits; shoes too small, too big, too flat, heels too high, so in the case of online purchasing perils, what steps can you recommend to our readers that Renovations takes to ensure security and quality and good fit?
Tom: Great question. And I will start with a one-word answer from which we can expand upon, RESEARCH. We do a lot of research.
Sandy: Do you research companies or products or both? I would imagine both.
Tom: Yes, Sandy, you are correct. Some of the products we have purchased in the past because no local stock or back-order have been high-ticket items. Initially, we look to well-established manufactures as a source for what we need. They, of course, do not require the vetting that less well-known manufactures need. Smaller specialty products are out there in abundance and often with a little background checking, they turn out to be reputable companies.
Sandy: Interesting. What are some of the methods you use to determine the reputation a company has?
Tom: We start by looking in the web address of a company to see if it is noted as a secure site. There is a padlock icon that appears, letting you know there is a secure system within which to do business.
Sandy: I always read the product reviews. They tell a real story about a company. And if the website doesn’t have reviews, I move on.
Tom: Exactly. Dee, in our office, is our online research guru. She looks at the reviews for everything we purchase and determines if the site is secure enough to do business with.
Sandy: So, the two steps are determining if you move forward are company/product reviews and to verify their website offers a secure means to do business with.
Tom: We also look at it in context of the time it would take to travel to another area, like the Valley, vs. ordering online.
Sandy: Good time management. I like that. What are some of the pitfalls you have found?
Tom: Whenever you get on the internet, or the information highway, you are putting some information about yourself out there. When you purchase using credit cards, that info can be out there, too, so our firm is extremely cautious. In fact, many times if we need to order a product online, we even call and talk with a principal of the firm as well.
Sandy: What about returns or items that aren’t what they appear to be?
Tom: Yes. Most reputable companies will have a return label in the shipping box.
Sandy: Yes, my shoes always have a return label! Try them on; too large, too small, color off, back into the box they go. What are some of the sites you work with, Tom, when purchasing items for remodels and or new builds?
Tom: We work with several construction specialty sites that are geared and set up to assist with prompt shipping. Build.com is a source we use as well.
Sandy: Tom, product selection and availability is probably a major reason why you and other contractors would turn to relatively specialized online retailers for items.
Tom: Indeed, it is. A purchase from an e-commerce business primarily happens because that business offered a unique product not available from larger competitors or offers the product that will keep us on schedule should our regular supplier not be able to support us.
Sandy: It is refreshing to know that these smaller retailers and/or specialized online companies can offer particular products, those hard to find products and in-stock products to keep you builders on schedule.
Tom: There are specialty retailers that many contractors use because they have many times the number of products in a particular category vs. the relatively larger mass-market retailer with more product categories and less product items.
For example, we recently had a new build with specialized hardware. There is a mid-market, e-commerce retail chain that carries more than 90,000 product SKUs. Among these many thousands of products, this retailer carries roughly 20 different hardware designs.
In contrast, there are several small online hardware specialty stores that carry a few hundred different hardware designs. This incredible product depth and breadth within the hardware category attracts builders when we need a specialty hardware item.
Sandy: Tom, is it the number of products within a category that matters as much as which products are offered?
Tom: Unique choices are important.
Buying direct from big box stores is popular; however, it all depends on what you are looking for. Our experience with purchasing items for our projects has been all over the board, with our first choice of course buying local.
Sandy: However, supporting local businesses and organizations means your money stays local, through taxes, investments and more. That means that your hard-earned money, once spent, continues to work for you. Local first, then check out those specialty construction online sites.
Thanks, readers, for stopping in and reading “At Home with Tom and Sandy.” You’re in good company and we love sharing educational, fun and important information with you. We will see you next month. QCBN
Tom Reilly, Architect, Contractor, Renovations 928-445-8506 renovationsaz.com
Sandy Griffis, Executive Director, Yavapai County Contractors Association. 928-778-0040.