Not long ago, you rarely saw in New England the logos of construction supply dealers, particularly lumberyards, that were common in other parts of the country. But a series of expansions and acquisitions these past few years--most recently with Builders FirstSource's purchase of National Lumber--is making New England less a land apart than it once was.
Today, roughly 180 locations of LBM operations in the five New England states are owned by operations with national scope that are headquartered outside the region. You can't say they are taking over, as local operations like Ring's End, Hammond, Hancock, Aubuchon, Riverhead are growing as well and are sure to provide spirited competition for builders and remodelers. But you can say the environment has changed markedly.
Prior to this month's BFS-National deal, New England has seen all this since 2018:
* US LBM bought Mid-Cape Home Centers and Ridgefield (CT) Supply, and Deering Lumber. Connecticut's East Haven Builders Supply was one of US LBM's original companies, and Wallboard Supply was brought in in 2014. In addition, US LBM's Universal Supply division has opened greenfield stores in Connecticut.
* Kodiak Building Partners added Ricci Lumber and Shepley Wood Products to an earlier acquisition, New England Building Supply.
* Nation's Best Holdings acquired Caron Building & Rental Center of Berlin, NH.
* 84 Lumber opened a branch in Newington, CT, joining the two it had launched previously.
* Exteriors specialist Lansing Building Products bought Harvey Building Products and its sister operation, Northeast Building Products.
* SRS Distribution opened a Heritage Wholesalers yard in New Hampshire and a branch in Connecticut.
* ABC Supply, which had stores scattered across New England long before 2018,
bought Merrimack (NH) Building Supply and opened several more stores.
* Drywall power GMS bought Vermont-based Trowel Trades Supply and opened a New England Gypsum branch in New Hampshire.
* Beacon opened a branch in Seabrook, NH.
* Foundation Building Materials hadn't been in New England prior to it being acquired by the American Securities LLC investment fund, but shortly after FBM was bought, American Securities also bought Beacon's drywall yards and RIS Insulation Supply. That brought California-based FBM four branches in New England.
While the new arrivals may operate nationally, it's likely they'll have to think locally if they hope to succeed in New England. The region lacks the giant housing developments that firms like BFS have served in the Sunbelt. There's a higher percentage of remodeling work vs. homebuilding, and the stores are more likely to feature extensive design centers and paint departments.
When it comes to which dealers they frequent, New England's pros often have a reputation for long-term relations and even longer memories. Time will tell how these newcomers will fare, even if they keep the acquired companies' names.