Increasing average order size and profits
December 5, 2010 | 6:00 pm CST

In spite of the continuing difficulties within the American economy that dominate headlines and political debates, there are many cabinetmakers who are maintaining financial health while completing substantial and high quality projects. It is not an easy economic situation, but there are many opportunities to connect with clients who want quality and have the means and desire to achieve it.

We interviewed cabinetmakers from different parts of the country. All of these companies have been in business for 10 years or more.

Steve Young, Distinctive Cabinets, Charlotte, N. C.

Steve Young is a custom builder in the growing city of Charlotte, N.C. He has a diverse team of skilled employees specializing in high end custom work. His residential projects are concentrated in a new suburb of affluent executives. This neighborhood is heavily populated with bankers who work for the two large banking conglomerates that are based in downtown Charlotte. Mini-mansions have been sprouting along the many golf courses in suburban Charlotte for more than a decade.

Before the recession, Distinctive Cabinets was producing upwards of $3 million in sales per year. Then, like most others, Steve’s business fell off sharply in 2008, and 2009 was still a struggle. But 2010 has been something of a turnaround year for his company, helped by their increased focus on remodeling. Distinctive Cabinet’s business is now divided 50/50 between new homes and remodeling projects. Their focus is 80 percent skewed toward large homes.

Asked how he increases order size, Steve said, “I do a lot of design work so I capture all of the cabinetry in the entire house, from closet system to kitchens.

“Do what you say you are going to do and show up on time,” he said. That is another aspect of this success formula. He builds customer loyalty by giving them quality and a lot for their money. This quality supports his margins.

To help fight back against the recession and prepare for what he feels will soon be a recovery, Steve has brought an ASID certified interior designer into his firm.

Tim Yalich, Cabinets By Design, Charlotte, N.C.

Custom work is not the only route to large orders and solid profits. A 30-minute drive from the neighborhood where Steve Young concentrates his work is a very different cabinet company named Cabinets by Design that is also doing very well, but with a sharply contrasting strategy. This company does not make any custom cabinets. They have been in business for a long time and have fostered many trusting relationships and a very fine reputation within the Myers Park affluent neighborhood in the older section of Charlotte. This is an area shaded by enormous 100-year-old trees that form an arching tunnel over the quiet streets. Many grand old aristocratic homes are tucked in this prestigious neighborhood.

Cabinets By Design keeps its focus entirely on design and service. Their relationship with suppliers and customers is so well rehearsed and orchestrated that they do not need to maintain a warehouse or a fleet of trucks. They are demanding and punctual with their suppliers and a small team of trusted independent installers. This is a low-overhead, high service formula that suits the character of their particular client base. It is a company that is clearly practical, conservative and well managed, matching the character of their neighborhood.

Joe Tabera, Cabinets Etc., Huntington Beach, Calif.

Joe Tabera has been in business for 15 years. During this period the communities surrounding his base in Huntington Beach have blossomed as never before. Nearby Newport Beach is a unique and glamorous community that has streets lined with old mansions and new clusters of McMansions. For 10 miles in every direction there are luxury home communities.

Tabera has made connections with interior designers and architects throughout this area. He concentrates on a 20-mile radius. According to Tabera, “the customers who can pay are the ones nearest the coast.” He also observes that, “What is keeping us going is repeat business.” He reports that he had completed eight jobs for one customer. “Some customers call back 12 years later for more projects.”

Tabera also keeps customers asking for more of his work by giving them a lot of little extras at no cost: a pull-out, some extra cubby holes.” We don’t nickel and dime them” he said. “We go the extra mile and the quality gets them hooked.”

Tabera started out specializing in kitchens and then expanded into entertainment units, nightstands, dressers and chests of drawers. “Since flat-panel televisions came out the entertainment business has soared,” he comments. Tabera worked with a home entertainment specialist and learned how to ventilate properly.

Cabinets Etc. has a new 1,250 square foot cabinet shop, downsized recently from a larger space. He has installed Powermatic table saws, a Ritter boring machine, Blum boring machines and DeWalt miter saws, among other stationary equipment.

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About the author
John Aves

John Aves wrote a monthly column for FDM and FDMC magazines on the furniture industry, furniture design, and international trade.