NORTH CAL WOOD PRODUCTS: “You Click It, They Ship It”
By Bridget McCrea
Finely crafted pieces of lattice atop the pictured fence panels are an example of the products crafted from Redwood, Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir at the Ukiah, Calif.-based plant owned and operated by North Cal Wood Products.
Ukiah, Calif.–North Cal Wood Products Inc. has been one of the leading manufacturers of the value-added Redwood product for nearly three decades in the California marketplace. Today, it purchases well in excess of 100,000 board feet of Redwood, Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir.
North Cal procures new, 100% FSC-certified lumber, as well as some reclaimed lumber, to make siding, decking, fencing, lattice and garden products at the firm’s Ukiah facility. Those products are sold to various supply chains and retail lumberyards. End users include residential and commercial customers from Coast to Coast.
“We sell direct and we use a distribution network,” said Tony Fernandez, North Cal’s vice president of sales and operations, who foresees a time in the near future when the Internet will play a larger role in that distribution. “As part of our online strategy, we’re looking to set up distribution facilities across the U.S. and tying them into our online offerings.”
Historically a proven innovator, this month North Cal Wood Products rolled out a full-service, online lumber store called YouClickItWeShipIt.com. The lumber manufacturer is ramping up its new “You Click It, We Ship It” campaign with an eye on creating the lumber industry’s version of Amazon.com. YouClickItWeShipIt.com allows anyone to browse through the firm’s line of lumber inventory options via the web, select their preferences, place their orders, and have their selections shipped – all without having to pick up the phone or send a fax. The site also allows anyone to become a member with discounts to contractors, builders and architects.
As North Cal Wood Products launches its online Internet “You Click It, We Ship It” campaign, customers can browse and select from hundreds of Softwood products to complement their home, such as the accent beams here, or build a deck or fence.
Fernandez said the 28-employee firm decided to launch its online store in order to serve its broadening client base in the most seamless manner possible, and to fill what he describes as a current void in the marketplace. “It’s an online world where customers are buying virtually everything on the Internet,” said Fernandez. “While other companies offer lumber products online, we offer something unique and compelling for the do-it-yourself client - direct shipping with no minimum order requirement.”
YouClickItWeShipIt.com is just one of many customer-oriented moves the company has made since it was purchased by Frank Van Vranken (current president) in 1985. An electrician by trade, Van Vranken grew the company from a tiny $750,000 remanufacturing firm in its infancy to a $33 million organization in 10 years.
In the 1990s North Cal became one of the first firms to service Home Depots with Redwood lumber and garden products.
North Cal Wood Products operates from a 14-acre site that includes a manufacturing plant, an ample yard space to accommodate its large inventory and an FSC-certified lumber mill. Fernandez and three reps handle sales. The team works primarily with North American customers, but also sells to international clients.
The company recently opened a new showroom in Seattle, Wash., called “Seattle Green.” The 1,200 square foot facility showcases all of the firm’s online offerings.
Overhanging this Facebook Café are accent ceiling beams from North Cal Wood Products, which purchases well in excess of 100,000 board feet of Redwood, Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir.
A member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the California Redwood Association, and the Western Wood Products Association, the company has faced its share of challenges over the last 28 years. “The past several years has been a major challenge,” said Fernandez, who points to the current economy as a particularly difficult hurdle. He sees the new online store as one way to overcome the obstacle and reach customers on a new, self-service level.
“The idea is for the independent contractor that’s out in Wisconsin on the jobsite, trying to find studs, framing, siding, or flooring to go online on his laptop or smart phone, check out our inventory, read a product review, and place an order,” said Fernandez. “With just a few clicks he can get it shipped directly to the jobsite.”
Looking ahead, Fernandez anticipates a time when a good portion of North Cal Wood Products’ customers fire up their computers and place orders online.“The online store isn’t a big business right now, but it’s growing and customers are responding very favorably to it,” Fernandez said. “We expect our online sales to continue to grow this year as we roll out our You Click It, We Ship It Campaign.”