Reid Supply Marks 60th With Its Web Site

August 1, 2008
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MUSKEGON — Back in 1954, Reid Supply Co.’s catalog was a pocket-sized affair, with the only color a bit of red for the cover’s mid-century modern typeface.

Fast forward to 2008: Sure, there’s still a print catalog, but it’s 800 pages, color-coded and searchable on the Web.

Sixty years after it was founded in the Muskegon basement of salesman Liberty Reid and his wife, Gloria, the 160-employee industrial supply company is embracing the 21st century for growth in the bottom line. Even the landscaping is new outside the main building that headquarters all of the arms of Reid Entities.

“We’ve continued to evolve over 60 years,” said Reid President John P. Carrier. “We started as a mail-order, 16-page catalog company. Literally, it was you mail in your order.

“Through time, we added the fax machines, added the e-mail. The whole focus is serving the customer better than anyone in the industry. In a slow-moving economy, we’re still doing very well.”

Reid’s revamped Web site, launched in January, has boosted business and improved the customer service for which it is known, Director of Marketing Greg Palmer said.

“We do business in all 50 states and 40 countries. We’re really expanding globally, and not just locally, because of our Web presence,” Palmer said.

The executives declined to disclose sales figures for the private firm.

“We have a CAD library of 42,000 free, downloadable CAD drawings. Designers can actually go to our Web site, download CAD drawings and design them directly into their products. This has been a very big push for us. We’ve gotten a ton of engineers going to our Web site downloading images to help them. It saves them umpteen hours of time.”

Reid Supply first offered a Web site in 2000, but by last year, company leaders decided it lacked the customer-friendly countenance that is one of the private firm’s three mantras. Palmer, who joined the firm last year from a competitor, called it “ineffective” and difficult to search.

Reid added to the existing Web development staff. Some of the work was outsourced, but in-house development was utilized and still provides the means to make pricing and product updates quickly, said Carrier, who is a CPA.

“We did that in record time,” Palmer added. “We threw a lot of resources at it because we knew how important it was to get a new Web presence out there.

“And along with that came our market branding. We were really known in knobs, handles, handwheels and clamps. We have 12 categories, and the customers knew us in one or two.”

To draw attention to Reid’s full array of products, Palmer revamped the catalog, dividing the 52,000 products in it into 12 color-coded categories. His marketing approach uses the tag line “Reid’s got more than you think.” He used the new color scheme on a black background to give customers a quick way to identify Reid.

“Everything meshes together, so when you see the black with the multi-colors, you know it is Reid. Immediately, that brand recognition really helped us establish who we are in the marketplace,” Palmer said.

Michigan still represents Reid Supply’s largest market, followed by California, Carrier said. Manufacturing makes up the bulk of the customer base, with significant customers also in design engineering, entertainment, aviation, petroleum, furniture and medical sectors.

Leveraging technology is the second in Reid’s three vision statements. Carrier said the company is updating technology, from new warehouse lighting systems to appointment-setting software to improve efficiency.

Reid Supply is one of the companies under the Reid Entities roof, which is still under Reid family ownership, Carrier said. Related firms include Professional Parts Warehouse, which sells primarily plow parts; United SignGraphics; Total Quality Machining, a machine shop across the street that allows the company to customize parts; and Reid Safety, which sells work clothing and other safety gear in stores in Muskegon, Traverse City and, in October, at Lakes Mall.

The company’s third vision statement calls for a fun work environment, which Carrier said is essential to encourage employees to provide superior customer service. To that end, TQM houses tables for ping pong, pool and foosball. The company softball team is just finishing its season, and apparently cutthroat euchre is a staple.

Reid Supply isn’t finished leveraging the Web to drive sales, Palmer said.

“We’re looking at other improvements to the Web: streaming media, digital asset management,” he said. “We are moving very, very rapidly to catch this company up to where the technology needs to be, and actually surpass it. We have some ideas for 2009 that we’re going to be implementing that are going to leverage technology like none of our competitors have seen. So we’re looking forward to that.” 

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