Softwood Forest Products Buyer


Feature Story


It’s All About Relationships at Mans Lumber

By Brady Buffaloe

Mans Lumber and Millwork, a retail lumberyard in Canton, Mich., buys and sells several million board feet annually of SPF, Southern Yellow Pine and Doug Fir to be used in construction projects by professional builders and do-it-yourself customers.
Canton, Mich.—Building relationships is a key to most any business. At retail lumberyards, a relationship with customers and vendors is equally important. That connection between the two has happened at Mans Lumber and Millwork, located here. The 100-year-old operation with four locations has had a 40-year relationship with Do it Best Corp., which has helped with its purchasing. However, the relationship has also assisted with customer relations. 

“Every success is about your relationships, and the relationship we've had with Do it Best has always been one that has helped us grow and helped us get into new markets,” said Doug Mans, president of the company.

One unique public relations method developed by the Do it Best marketing team is the “move in kit.” Although new-home buyers aren't exactly flocking into Michigan these days, those that do move into the neighborhoods south and west of Detroit make friends quickly with Mans Lumber and Millwork. The company’s “New Mover Coupon” initiative entitles all new residents to a bucketful of assorted hand tools, paintbrushes, spackle, adhesives, and local homeowner community magazines–the things one might need to ease some of the move-in madness. The buckets feature the Do it Best and Mans logos, and coupons are mailed out in circulars or are available for print on Mans' Web site.

“Every time a person is moving into a new home you are hoping they are going to finish their basement, redo their kitchen, or improve the deck,” Mans said. “We were aiming to get to those people that were doing projects those first couple of weeks after move in, and the Do it Best marketing department has always helped us with those kinds of things.”

The New Mover program is just one example of the extra marketing muscle that Do it Best brings to the table. Another advantage has been in online retailing, a market opportunity that Mans admits has never been one of the company's core competencies. Like many Do it Best–affiliated dealers, Mans has a link on the company's Web site that provides customers with point-and-click access to more than 70,000 products available for quick shipment.

Mans has enjoyed a 40-year relationship with Do it Best Corp., which has helped enhance product selection at Mans.
“That has undoubtedly helped our online sales to grow,” Mans said. “It’s tough to measure exactly how much those sales are–we've never been experts at that. More important for us is that we get customers asking us for the items they have seen on the Web site. So the value at Mans is that the Internet has served as a heck of an advertising and promotional tool as far as getting new customers in the door.”

Do it Best’s power as a purchasing collective also continues to be a strong suit as Mans attempts to compete in a market filled with larger regional and national suppliers.

“Obviously Do it Best has a full-time staff in place negotiating with mills with some multi-dealer buying power behind them,” Mans says. “That's certainly been a help for us as a smaller independent trying to position ourselves with long-term purchasing and price protections.”

According to Mans, a major competitive advantage for smaller independents has always been the ability to adapt quickly to meet changing markets, and Do it Best has shown itself to be a key ally in that regard.

Mans, whose customers include professionals and do-it-yourselfers, leverages Do it Best for purchasing power on both lumber and hardware products. The company, after all, is a full-service lumberyard. From studs to Cedar shingles, they have the lumber for any job.

“A truss package will be fabricated to customer specifications and after a review by one of our specialists,” Mans said. “Engineered wood products are value engineered for peak performance. In addition, we supply a range of building products which include sheetrock, housewrap, dimensional and framing lumber, and sheathings such as OSB and plywood.”

The company buys and markets several million board feet annually. Main Softwood species carried by the company includes SPF, Southern Yellow Pine and Doug Fir.

Mans’ showroom is divided for ease of selection and is enhanced through its 40-year parternship with Do it Best Corp., which has helped with Mans purchasing.
“Our sales people are experienced in working with professionals and know that they depend on knowledgeable and experienced support when they’re busy with a job,” Mans said. “Our sales staff has access to software programs that help customers design plans for the deck, barn, or garage of their dreams. If they already have plans we can help them decide on the best materials for their particular project. Specifics regarding environment, usage, and budgetary goals call for knowledgeable analysis by people who want to see their project turn out the way they imagined it. Many products at Mans locations can be purchased installed.”

A comprehensive moulding profile list is available on the company website so customers can find what they’re looking for, see which species are available and order times.

The company operates in four different locations, along with the headquarters in Canton, Mich., the operation also has a flooring and millwork division. There are full-service lumberyards in Hamburg and Trenton, Mich., and a kitchen and bath operation in Trenton.

Canton is approximately 20 miles east of Ann Arbor, 35 miles west of Detroit and 50 miles north of Toledo, Ohio. Mans provides delivery all over southeastern Michigan and northwestern Ohio.

The Mans Family has been serving the community since 1900, when Nicholas August Mans started the business selling coal and peat in the Downriver community of Trenton. The business expanded from there, with four lumberyards in three counties, two kitchen and bath design showrooms, a progressive construction finance program, finished carpentry shop, installed products, equipment rental, and an onsite mobile unit—called the Mans Connection.

“Our company vision is based on focusing our resources on our core business. Our vision is based on the fact that our customers are the focus of everything we do,” Mans said. “To support that goal Mans Lumber will strive to become the employer of choice. We must focus on employee involvement and education/training. All of Mans Lumber and Millwork must understand the direction and future of our company. Continuous improvement is essential to the future success of the company. There must be a focus on operational effectiveness dedicated to meeting marketplace demands with cost effective performance. These objectives must ensure continued growth and profitability in our core business.”

With that kind of vision, no wonder the company has been around over 100 years and with the next 100 looking even brighter.



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