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“I have three racks in my warehouse, and we sell it everyday.“
KINGSTON, NEW YORK — Jim Canning has stocked and sold Saniflo macerator, grinder and drain-pump products for as long as he can remember. Or, more accurately: For as long as he has been running his plumbing and heating supply house in Kingston, located an hour’s drive north of New York City.
A 37-year industry veteran — most of it in wholesaling plus four years as an apprentice plumber — Canning first took charge of the 10,000-square-foot Kingston operation in 1998. At that point, it was still part of the Albany, NY-based, multi-branch wholesaler, Security Plumbing & Heating Supply.
Then, in April 2015, the $4 billion national distribution company Winsupply Group — now with 620 locations in 45 states — purchased Security. Two years later, Canning’s supply house was officially converted into a Winsupply location, with the former branch manager becoming its president and part-owner.
These were no small changes in Canning’s professional life. In fact, they gave him a welcome managerial freedom he had never enjoyed. No longer having to answer daily to someone above, he now runs his 10-employee operation pretty much as he sees fit, based on four decades of front-line industry experience:
“Winsupply stands behind us,” he explains. “If you make a bad decision, you don't get reprimanded. You just learn from your mistakes and move on. They are here to help, not hinder us.”
Part of the autonomy Canning enjoys is stocking what he wants, in the quantities he deems necessary. This includes “three racks of Saniflo product — darned close to the full line,” he says. He could buy another brand of macerators from the Winsupply regional distribution center (RDC) in Middletown, CT. But he sees no reason to switch brands, based on Saniflo’s lengthy, successful and still-growing track record in his market. Plus, for the sake of “better control,” as well as superior customer service, he prefers that his shipments come directly from the factory.
“I never want to tell a customer he can have a product tomorrow after the next automatic replenishment arrives from the RDC,” Canning explains. “If he wanted it tomorrow, he wouldn’t be standing at my counter today.”
Then again, why shouldn’t Canning stock a ton of Saniflo, given how much of it he sells? In just the first three months of his current fiscal year, beginning February 1, 2021, he had already bought a third more Saniflo than he had in all of 2020.
But as Canning explains in the following interview, when it comes to Saniflo, he sells so much precisely because he stocks so much. His full wagon drives his success.
Q: When did you first encounter Saniflo? What motivated you to stock the line?
Jim Canning: We have handled Saniflo for so long — maybe 20 years ago, maybe more — it's just a given for us. Bill Norris has been our rep for as long as I can remember, and he has always handled the line. In fact, Saniflo has outlasted a couple of changes we have made in our major plumbing fixture lines.
When Saniflo first came to us, I thought: This solution is wonderful. We no longer need to tear up the floor to install the storage tank for an ejector pump. No one wants to tear up a floor if they can help it. The toilet and other fixtures drain right into the macerator box behind the toilet. Plus, you can hide that box behind the wall, which is what many women prefer.
Q: Have you always carried such a large selection of Saniflo product?
Canning: As a Security Supply branch, we were on a buy-sell, automatic replenishment arrangement. If I sold a widget today, I would receive another tomorrow. We did not actually start stocking the line in earnest until we became a Win company and could make our own stocking decisions. That's when we started purchasing larger quantities to put on our shelves, and that's when we began to see Saniflo sales improve tremendously — because we had the product in stock. I have three racks of Saniflo in my warehouse, and we sell it everyday.
Q: What was your local market's response to Saniflo? Was there resistance?
Canning: That's a two-sided question. If you tell 20 contractors about Saniflo for the first time, 10 might say: This is wonderful, because we don't have to cut up the floor. The other 10 might say: This sucks because we will need to throw the tank away if it goes bad. So it was a split initially.
Over time, more and more plumbers recognized the time-saving value of no longer needing to jack-hammer through the floor to install conventional drainage. Today, no one questions its utility. It's not a hard sell to someone creating a new bathroom in a basement. It's pretty much self-explanatory. It sells itself.
Q: Can you describe Saniflo’s growth in your trading area?
Canning: As I said, we did not begin purchasing Saniflo in larger quantities until after the Winsupply conversion in 2017. That first year, we bought a little over $1,000. For all of our fiscal year 2020, we purchased $34,000. But in less than three months of the current year, we’ve already purchased $45,000. In short, tremendous growth.
The factors behind that growth? Basement baths are the most popular application in our locale, so I guess homeowners are creating more basement baths. With this pandemic, of course, everyone is staying home, trying to create more living spaces. Meanwhile, as more people use Saniflo, even more people want to use it. Customer awareness through word of mouth is helping to drive sales too.
Saniflo is like a hosta plant: You put it in the ground with a little water, and you don’t have to worry about it. It just keeps growing.
Q: What do you like about doing business with Saniflo?
Canning: Saniflo is a no-hassle company. That's the simplest way I can describe it. Every manufacturer has a production problem from time to time. Every once in a while, a macerator box will go bad. When that happens, I make a phone call to Saniflo, and they take care of it — no questions asked. We get a credit, without any issues or flack, as long as the purchase falls within the warranty period. They just make it easy.
And when that's the case, it is also easier for us to sell the product. We know we won’t have any problems working with our customers or with their customers. Sometimes, an installer tightens the bolt too much and cracks the fixture. Their explanation: “It broke in the box during shipment.” Horsefeathers! We know that's not how it happened. But again, Saniflo doesn't give us any flack about it. They understand and take care of the situation.
Q: How critical is contractor training with Saniflo product?
Canning: That's always important ‚ if needed. But like I said, we’ve been selling it so long, we no longer have a large, ongoing demand for contractor training. When we do, with a plumber who’s new to Saniflo, Bill Norris gets involved, and he takes care of it.
Q: What is your thinking on buying directly from the factory versus relying on the regional distribution centers?
Canning: Buying from the RDCs has its advantages: You know if you sell two, in another day or two, you will have two more with the automatic replenishment]. You spend less money, and you don’t have to worry about making freight, which is one of the biggest problems. That’s why some presidents prefer to pull from the RDCs.
But I still recommend that everyone buy their own stock for one reason: You simply have better control over your inventory and are in a better position to meet demand.
Q: Do you see Saniflo being brought into the distribution centers?
Canning: I think Saniflo would be a great addition to the five RDCs. If Saniflo were in the RDCs, the presidents would buy it, because it would be there.
But to bring a product into a distribution center, it must start at the local company level. If enough local presidents have an interest in a product, they can approach the department that handles the product category and make it happen. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does happen, and there must be a demand from the presidents.
Q: Would you encourage a fellow president to consider Saniflo?
Canning: Oh, yes. Saniflo is all I have ever sold. I know there are other brands, but if the product works, why change it? The Liberty sales rep is here all the time, begging me to take on his product, and I always appease him by saying I will think about it. But it ain't going to happen, so he has stopped asking.
Saniflo works, and I have no complaints.
Questions about adding a bathroom to your home classroom? Call (732) 305-2200 with details on your installation to find out which products would work best for your installation.
For more information about the product line, including new-product launches, contact Saniflo at (732) 305-2200. Or visit the Saniflo website at www.saniflo.com.
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