Woodcraft Franchise LLC

Woodcraft 01 

For almost 90 years, Woodcraft Supply has provided customers with invaluable information

and quality tools and aims to expand further by sticking to its roots.

By Bianca Herron

It's been almost 90 years since Woodcraft Supply LLC began selling high-quality woodworking tools and supplies out of a one-room shop in Boston's North End. Since its founding in 1928, Woodcraft has continued to supply the specialized tools professional woodworkers, hobbyists and skilled craftsmen need.

 

“In the mid-1950s Woodcraft launched its first catalog, providing essential tools that local cabinetmakers could not find elsewhere,” Vice President of Retail and Franchising Development Gary Lombard says. “In 1987, our parent company, SBR Inc. – which later merged with Fortune Brands in 2006 – purchased Woodcraft with the intent to develop the retail concept. At that time, we grew to about 10 stores by 1990. From there, we improved the concept and then expanded to 28 stores before we started franchising in 1997.”Woodcraft Fact Box

Celebrating its 20-year franchising anniversary this year, Woodcraft’s comprehensive retail selection of woodworking tools and equipment is now one of the nation’s largest and most versatile. The Parkersburg, W.V.-based company has 76 stores, 68 of which are franchise units, located in 36 states from Boston to Hawaii. Additionally, Woodcraft provides services to woodworkers in 117 countries through retail outlets, catalog and website, woodcraft.com.

“We are looking to expand even further,” Lombard says. “A couple of months ago, we acquired a store that would have been a competitor to us in Nebraska and converted it to a Woodcraft store. We were familiar with the company and the owners were looking to eventually exit the business. We evaluated the situation and the market, and decided to buy the company. We are keeping the staff in place, with the owner acting as the manager for the immediate future. It was a win-win for everyone involved.”

Expert Service

Woodcraft is not only committed to providing quality woodworking tools and supplies, but also to giving woodworkers expert advice to achieve the best results possible. “Service and information is what we do best,” Lombard says. “We want to be known as the information source for woodworking within our marketplace. We can achieve that only by the people we hire in our stores, the classes we teach in stores, as well the tremendous amount of online content that we offer.”

Woodcraft’s retail stores teach more than 13,000 classes annually to more than 50,000 students. Notable experts teach the classes, and its stores maintain a selection of more than 400 books, magazines and videos covering nearly every woodworking discipline.

According to Lombard, service is equal to product knowledge in the Woodcraft system. That is why all of its franchisees?are trained to provide any assistance necessary that will help a woodworker complete their project. Consequently, customers receive added value with the products they buy.

“One of the things we try to do with our franchise prospects is ensure we are clear and transparent about who we are, what we’re about and how we go about our business,” he says. “We share with them before they join the Woodcraft family about our Declaration of Values, which include success, learning, enjoyment, quality, customer relationships, respect and integrity. We believe that all under the Woodcraft brand need to understand and act in the same manner, which follows the values that have been put in place.”

For example, when it comes to integrity, Lombard notes, the Woodcraft family will always act in a manner that keeps the customer in mind. “If a customer comes to our store, we want to find out what they are working on and what problem they are trying to solve,” he explains. “Our goal is not to sell them the most expensive solution; rather, our goal is to provide them with the proper tool to fit the application and meet their economic considerations.”

Training also plays a key role in the company’s operations. “We require a 10-day training program here in our corporate training facility for our franchisees,” Lombard says. “Then, of course, we provide ongoing support and service through a network of regional field consultants that we have.”

The ultimate goal is to satisfy the customer, Lombard adds. “We have to do things that are going to benefit our customers,” he says. “They are the people that decide if we’re doing the right things.”

Woodcraft’s customers are primarily woodworking hobbyists as well as skilled craftsmen. However, that base has changed over the years, according to Lombard. “We also deal with the professional, contractor/cabinet business customer base,” he says. “Additionally, we service those new to woodworking by offering them some of the easiest ways to enter into the hobby or craft, which is repair, refurbishing, refinishing and up-cycling, which is taking in items that someone has discarded to repurpose them.

“So it’s about helping the beginner to understand the basics of woodworking,” he continues. “Pinterest is a good example of that. That social media, Pinterest, shows you it’s not as hard as you think it is and that you can do it. That’s what many of our in-store classes are about.”

More than 10 years ago, Woodcraft launched Woodcraft Magazine to provide additional value to its customers. “It is a subscription publication that features articles on projects, large and small,  with plans and how-to tips and tricks,” Lombard explains. “We want it to help people generate ideas and show them how to successfully do woodworking. Many times our stores use the magazine as part of their class criteria. Again, we want to be the information source for our customers to help them build from a beginner to an advanced woodworker.”

Key Advantages

Woodcraft provides franchisees with a complete system that includes assistance with site selection and development, help with securing required equipment, and décor and design. It also shares information about hiring quality staff and marketing support, including building personal websites for their stores.

“Once they join the Woodcraft family, we have a specific timeline of the most important things they should be doing and when they should be doing it,” Lombard says. “Once all the initial paperwork is finished, we move ahead with that schedule. From the time they sign the agreement to opening their doors, it generally takes a minimum of six months.”

From there, Woodcraft provides ongoing support through its regional field consultants and retail support staff. “The reason why someone should invest in a Woodcraft franchise is because we have a proven system, with its strength being inventory management and control,” Lombard says. “It’s been proven numerous times since we began developing the retail stores. And it all goes back to bringing in the right people to the Woodcraft Brand.

“We want franchisees to have an interest in woodworking,” he continues. “They don’t have to be a master woodworker, but they have to have a basic understanding of the tools and the products we sell. We like potential franchisees to have a business background and understand business. Regretfully, the best woodworkers are not necessarily the best owners.

“Most of the franchisees we have in our system came from the world of business in the past,” he adds. “Not necessarily retail, but they were in situations where they were developing programs and/or managing people, which are a couple of the basic requirements needed if you’re going to be an entrepreneur in business for yourself.”

As a franchisee in another organization, Lombard notes that he sees the difference in Woodcraft compared to other franchises. “I think Woodcraft’s level of support is far superior to most franchise organizations that are out there,” he says. “It’s been a good experience for me to be on both sides because I also understand how a franchisee feels about certain things and how they are presented to them. For example, we as a company try to always think about how our decisions will impact the franchisee. We always ask ourselves if what we are doing will benefit them. They are an important part of our business, and their growth is our growth.”

Improved Tech

As the largest network of woodworking stores nationwide, Woodcraft’s distribution partners give it access to more than 10,000 products. Lombard, who has been with the company since 1989, notes that technology has played a critical role in maintaining inventory and keeping its operations efficient.

“We have gone from a fax machine to a cell phone, but point of sale and data are the big areas for us,” he says. “Electronics have changed so much over the years, you now have the ability to reach someone without sending paper, making them aware of events through electronics via email or social media.

“We are currently investing in a new POS system that will enhance the shopping experience and our overall operations,” he continues. “The POS system will not only handle sales transactions, but track all data and store inventory needs. All areas of the business in-store are centered around this POS management system. The technology used today is so far advanced from when we first started this with our homegrown POS system back in the early ’90s.”

Woodcraft has also invested in a new warehouse fulfillment system to enhance its ability to get product from warehouse to the stores. “We want to be more efficient and effective, and ensure we get products to stores when they need it,” Lombard says. “We recently began selling CNC machines. We are finding that millennials may not be involved in traditional woodwork, but they like the idea of being able to create things by using a computer-generated system, which the CNC machine does.

“Unlike 10 years ago, when we had just one CNC machine – and one engraver – at the warehouse, the customer had to send items to us,” he adds. “Now, with the new innovations and reduction in size, the machines are available for in-home use, so we’re selling them to the end-user.”

Despite expanding its service and business with franchisees, Lombard says Woodcraft still has room for growth. “A lot of companies you see now are pulling back from brick and mortar,” he says. “We believe that Woodcraft retail has a future in the marketplace since we are in a niche market, and the customer prefers to touch, feel and even test products before they purchase. Information is king, and we feel that if we can provide valuable information to the customer, and then follow that up with exceptional service, we can continue to grow for years to come.

“I’m proud that the company lives by a set of values that we believe defines the entire organization,” he concludes. “As we move forward, we will act in a manner that is consistent with those values.”

 

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