SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A national research study conducted by Eric Mower + Associates' Contractor Insight specialty reveals that contractors make nearly half of their tool and building supply purchases from big-box retailers.
"Retailers score high for variety and convenience, but that's not the whole story for brand marketers; they must 'see' the customer as a shopper, not only as a contractor. If they don't— and they don't know the shopper's journey or how to align their product in the retail environment— they will not reach full potential in the aisles," said John O'Hara partner and leader of EMA's Contractor Insight specialty.
When it comes to purchasing hand tools, power tools and tool accessories, big-box retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's have an advantage over traditional distributors as the preferred shopping destination. Study respondents cited convenience, range of products and brands, and accessibility as their reasons for choosing their place of purchase.
According to the research, 46% of contractors purchase hand tools, 47% purchase power tools and 49% purchase accessories from big-box retailers; 42%, 35% and 36% purchase hand tools, power tools and accessories from distributors, respectively.
Contractors perceived big-box retailers to have a better variety of products, lower pricing, and greater convenience as a one-stop shop, according to the study. Of the respondents, 63% would prefer to make small-volume purchases at big box retailers.
Those who prefer purchasing through distributors said it was for their customer service (75%), relationships (70%), knowledge (63%) and delivery (54%), all of which ranked significantly higher when compared to retailers. Distributors were also ranked high for having tools for pros, shipping directly to the contractor site and credit arrangements. According to the survey, 80% would make large-volume purchases at the distributorship, especially for plumbers (91%).
"The takeaway for distributors is to maintain, if not sharpen, the edge they have over big-box stores: their knowledge, customer service and personal relationships," said John Favalo, managing partner and strategist with EMA's Contractor Insight specialty.
The EMA study was administered online to 500 general contractors, electricians, plumbers and HVAC specialists. More than 90 percent of respondents have at least six years' professional experience.