Palmer-Donavin CEO: Inventory is King

Palmer-Donavin’s Robyn Pollina talks about the importance of supplier relationships in the face of unprecedented demand for the company’s building products.
wholesale trade November 2020

There’s a new dynamic in play for distributors as they deal with inventory and material shortages related to snarls in their supply chains. Palmer-Donavin CEO Robyn Pollina, who took over that role in August of last year, says her company has seen tremendous demand this year in the building material space due to the housing shortage.

“There is unprecedented demand for the products and services we offer, and yet, we’re still facing major shortages,” Pollina says on an MDM podcast. “Inventory is the new king. It used to be you heard, ‘Cash is king.’ Now, I believe that inventory is king. Whoever has it wins in our space, but what I’ve learned from that is how important our supplier relationships are.”

Pollina says the key to managing inventory shortages is to treat the suppliers as additional customers in order to build better partnerships. with Palmer-Donavin for 26 years, she believes the affordable housing shortages, as well as the supply chain issues and the ongoing labor shortage, will eventually work themselves out, but not in the near future.

“They are ongoing challenges,” Pollina says. “I think innovations need to happen to take labor and issues with products out of the equation and just make it easier and faster to build and remodel things. It’s been a very interesting and challenging year with problems we’ve never really had since I’ve been here. But you know that’s kind of what you face in business. There’s always something new around the corner that you need to be aware of and deal with.”

Internal focus

Palmer-Donavin is looking inward this year to focus on improving automation across its warehouses and the fabrication side as well as in branches, digital sales and web sales. The company is also tapping into artificial intelligence to help optimize the experience customers have on its website.

“Our focus is a little more internal with the optimization there,” Pollina says. “And then as the supply chain loosens up, we hope we can gain a lot of ground from these improvements going forward.

“It feels like whatever we get in our warehouses we’re able to sell relatively quickly. That’s not really a product mix [change], but just an evolution around inventory is king. Whoever can get it to us, we can get it turned around.”

On the podcast, Pollina, a 2021 Women in Distribution award winner, also discusses Palmer-Donavin’s hybrid training model, recruitment efforts and how it has approached employees either working from home or returning to their physical locations.

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