Partnership profits vocational-ed supplier

Mar 01, 2005 10:30 PM  By

At 960 pages, the 2005 catalog of vocational education supplier Brodhead Garrett is its largest since 1988. Accounting for 600 of those pages are woodworking supplies — a marked increase from recent catalogs, in which woodworking products accounted for about 25% of the merchandise mix. What’s also new for Mansfield, OH-based Brodhead Garrett is its partnership with fellow cataloger Woodworker’s Supply, which is now the primary vendor of Brodhead Garrett’s hardware and other woodworking products.

The 102-year-old Brodhead Garrett was in fact founded as a lumberyard. It sold woodworking equipment before branching out into products for instructors of automotive, electrical, and refrigeration-repair skills. But last spring the company, a division of $907.5 million multititle mailer School Specialty, decided to broaden its offering and return to its roots by expanding its woodworking product line.

Rather than inventory and fulfill tens of thousands of additional woodworking SKUs, Brodhead Garrett approached Casper, WY-based Woodworker’s Supply to be its supplier/drop-shipper for the items. “Woodworker’s Supply has been around for more than 30 years and has very strong management — good people,” says Dave Vander Zanden, president/CEO of Greenville, WI-based School Specialty. “And a partnership afforded more direct shipping than Brodhead Garrett could ever do on its own.”

Gerald Beer, Brodhead Garrett’s sales and marketing director and the chief architect of the catalog partnership, adds that “the chemistry was just right between the two companies. [Woodworker's Supply owner] John Wirth and his team seemed very familiar with our operation.”

For his part, Wirth notes that Woodworker’s Supply offers 23,000 SKUs of hand tools, power tools, machinery, and safety equipment. “This kind of variety can expand the product lines Brodhead Garrett can offer, making it a more attractive supplier to schools,” he says.

Brodhead Garrett mailed 80,000 copies of the 2005 catalog in December. Fewer than 5% of the books went to recent customers — the majority mailed to outside lists from Scholastic’s Quality Education Data (QED) division, among others. The catalog, which features about 90% of Woodworker’s Supply’s total product line, displays the logos of both Brodhead Garrett and Woodworker’s Supply, as well as the latter’s Web address on each page selling its products.

Early returns from the catalog are strong, says Beer: “Schools that have not bought from us in years are beginning to call in orders.” What’s more, many of those orders are large. “I just received an order for $7,100,” Beer says, “just for woodworking supplies.”