Published On: Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Coast Distributors' Growth and Success Generated by the Power of Partnerships

Coast Distributors' Growth and Success Generated by the Power of Partnerships

By Mark MacDonald

Business Examiner

KELOWNA – On the road again. Brad McCluskie can’t wait to get on the road again.

That’s the way he and his partners have built Coast Distributors into one of Canada’s largest independent hardware and building supply distributors.

The family owned and operated business, with locations in Nanaimo, Kelowna and Vancouver, prides itself on its relationships with customers, and McCluskie is setting out to work with his salespeople and thank the company’s many loyal customers.

“From the very beginning, Coast has built its reputation by listening to what our customers need and finding ways to deliver,” says McCluskie. “Making a sale is important, but creating a relationship with our customers is what Coast has built our business on.”

Coast Distributors serves a broad range of industries and businesses that include hardware stores, building supplies, garden centres, paint stores, rental yards, gas station convenience stores and commercial and industrial customers of all sorts.

“As a wholesaler, Coast Distributors creates partnerships with quality manufacturers so our customers are able to access great brand name products at solid pricing, right in their own back yard,” says McCluskie, noting the brands they carry include Irwin, Gorilla, Krylon, LePage, Lenox, Reliable, Swan, TUFX, Sashco and more.

Coast also has its own brand of products, called TerraTuff and TerraPro.

McCluskie is the majority partner in the Nanaimo operation, and is a minority partner in the Kelowna operation, where Scott Guy and Ken Andrew hold the majority interest. Guy and Andrew are also partners in Nanaimo, and they’re all partners in the Vancouver location.

It was Scott Guy’s brother, Alex Guy – who is also Ken’s brother-in-law, who started Coast Distributors in his back yard garage in Nanaimo 32 years ago.

“Alex steadily built a solid team who shared his solution for excellence and passion for business,” says McCluskie, noting Alex coaxed him into joining the company in 1998. “Alex’ vision was to become the first choice hardware and building supply distributor on Vancouver Island and eventually all of BC.”

25 years ago, Scott and Ken started the Kelowna operation out of their garages.

“We ran out my basement for three years before we moved into a decent-sized warehouse, and 14 years ago we built our own building,” says Ken. “We’ve had the same growing pains.

“Scott and I started everything from scratch as well, and we cover the lion’s share of the BC interior, from one end of the province to the other,” he adds.

Guy started Coast Distributors around the same time three other friends started their companies on Vancouver Island: George Thomson at Paradise Island Cheese, Bill Jackson of Shar-Kare, and Gerard St. Jean of St. Jean’s Cannery, and they all helped each other. They are all still successful businesses today.

McCluskie says it wasn’t out of the ordinary for Coast to deliver goods to Port Hardy, and while there, pick up a crate of fish and take it back to St. Jean’s, for example.

McCluskie had started a hardware store in Sidney called McLeod’s Hardware, which he sold in 1993.

“I came to work for Alex, and had no idea that I would eventually buy him out, but that’s the way it went,” he says, recalling his decision to join Coast 20 years ago, and purchase Alex’ shares outright 7 years ago.

“When I joined Coast, we pounded the pavement really hard,” he says. “I’d be phoning in orders at 11:30 at night, and Alex would say ‘What are you doing up?’ I’d say ‘Trying to keep up with you. What are you doing up?’”

In 1993, Scott and Ken opened the Coast Distributors Kelowna branch, “so they could truly offer our superior service to all businesses in BC,” McCluskie recalls.

Today, Coast has 43 people on staff, and a team of 10 outside salespeople to cover BC and Alberta, including two agents who serve Prince George and Alberta/Saskatchewan out of the Kelowna operation.

Their warehouses total over 70,000 square feet and contain over 20,000 SKU’s, ready to be delivered by their own fleet of trucks.

“The ability to take orders and deliver them within a few days is pretty fine service and that has been a key to our success,” says McCluskie. “We do that throughout BC, with the exception of northern BC, which we deliver through other services.”

Coast Distributors is an active member of the Building Supply Industry Association of BC, as McCluskie has served on the Board of Directors for over 10 years, including two years as Chairman.

Coast was named BSIA’s winner of the Top Supplier of the Year Orion Award in 2016, with Geoff Staller named top outside salesperson of the year, and Mat Brunt inside sales/customer service award winner.

“Where I come from, that’s called a hat trick,” says McCluskie.

Scott points out that “we understand you cannot sell from empty hooks, and we also understand too much inventory is not the answer. That’s why we have our trained and knowledgeable sales reps working hard to get to know our customers, their stores, and their needs, so that we can help them define their own individual recipe for success.”

Scott adds: “Coast Distributors has gained a widespread reputation for fairness, with service, with delivery and with pricing. As such, our customers receive competitive pricing, excellent fill rates and regular sales rep calls.”

McCluskie believes in giving back not only to the industry, but to the communities they live and work in. McCluskie notes the Nanaimo and Kelowna branches have donated over $30,000 to local worthy charitable and community causes in the last year alone.

“From the very beginning, Coast has built its reputation by listening to what our customers need and finding ways to deliver,” says Scott. “Coast continues to develop processes and systems to better serve our customers, and we are willing to go beyond normal expectations to make sure our customers are satisfied each and every time we do business together.”

Coast Distributors adds value to their clients’ business through technical and marketing support, new and innovative products, trademark quality assurance, vendor-specific change-out programs, incentive programs, personal sales representatives, interactive website services, monthly flyers and specials, seasonal bookings and a service guarantee.

Their customers are all independent operations, and McCluskie is proud that Coast Distributors is an all-Canadian company, adding “we pride ourselves on that. We have Canadian flags on the sleeves of our salespeople’s shirts, and our customers know we don’t have to call down south or somewhere else to make a decision. We make it here, now.

“There’s still lots of potential for us out there,” he says. “We’re still going through a growth period. 83 per cent of our customers are still Mom and Pop operations,” 

Ken Andrew notes Coast has equipped their sales team with the latest technology, and “they pack I-Pads on their calls so they can order on-site and scan online, providing instant confirmation to our customers. With our online catalogue, we can show our customers what is available right there, right now, and it’s always up to date.”

McCluskie has just promoted Anthony Snell to replace himself as General Manager in the Nanaimo branch. McCluskie and Snell will work together to build upon the success in the Nanaimo branch and better manage the growth in the future.

“I’m going back out on the road, to spend time with our sales people and thank our customers. I’ll be doing calls with our sales people, and also on my own, as we continue to build our brand. We have a couple of guys that are lighting the world on fire, and we’re excited about it.” 

“We’ve built the business based on personal relationships and service. Our customers are our friends,” he says.

6855 Mart Road, Lantzville

181 Tilley Road, Kelowna

9775-188th Street, Surrey