Shifting Footprint: How Changes in BFS’ Locations and Focus Show Its Evolution Since the BMC Merger
(Editor's Note: This story was part of Webb Analytics' 2021 Deals Report. Click here to download the entire report.)
By Craig Webb, President, Webb Analytics
Goodbye Bemidji, hello Boston. Goodbye old and tired, hello fresh and modern. Goodbye to unneeded retail, hello to manufacturing and millwork.
You can find all these trends by comparing Builders FirstSource’s current facility lineup with the locations that Webb Analytics recorded BFS and BMC having in their online directories in 2019, well before the dealers’ mega merger on New Year’s Day 2021. The comparison indicates:
There are 53 former BFS and BMC locations that no longer are on BFS’ list of open yards. Many are in smaller communities and appear to be legacy yards first acquired in long-ago acquisitions, such as United Building Center facilities that were absorbed in turn by Lanoga, ProBuild, and finally BFS. Six were design centers, most of which appear to have been merged, such as a TW Perry shop in Annapolis, MD, that’s now part of its store in Baltimore.
There are 24 new locations, often opened near a location that was shuttered.
There were 36 new locations added in acquisition deals between January 2021 and this report’s publication in early February 2022. Among the most notable was BFS’ purchases of National Lumber in New England and the Alliance family of companies in Arizona.
Aside from the apparent closings cited above, BFS also sold 13 facilities that made up BMC’s old collection of drywall specialty facilities. The yards were bought by ABC Supply’s L&W Supply division.
BFS serves roughly 85 of the nation’s 100 biggest markets, but Chicago isn’t one of them. In fact, BFS doesn’t have a single location in Illinois any more. It also has only four yards in Ohio, three in Indiana, and two in Missouri. Meanwhile, it has 23 locations in South Carolina.
BFS’ descriptions of its locations also reveal how the company is becoming as much a factory as it is a distributor of building products. As of late last year, BFS said 119 of its operating units engaged in component manufacturing while 131 other operating units did millwork, doors, and windows. Together, they represent roughly one-third of BFS’ roughly 750 operating units. And these numbers don’t count BFS’ more recent acquisitions with components and millwork plants, so the total is sure to grow.
(Note: BFS sometimes has multiple operating units at the same address. If you measure BFS’ operations based on unique addresses, you can say BFS can be found in around 580 locations.)
While they account for one third of BFS’ operating units, sales of value-added products from these shops—including but not exclusively the goods produced through manufacturing and millwork—account for 43%, or $8.39 billion, of BFS’ forecast revenue of $19.5 billion in 2021.
As for the closings, it’s quite likely a lot of the 53 operations off BFS’ list of open yards had been shut before the merger. You could even bet that some facilities were dead men walking long before mid-2019—when Webb Analytics recorded their locations—but BFS and BMC hadn’t gotten round to updating their websites. On the other hand, Google imagery suggests a number of other closed operations were still doing business sometime in 2021.
BFS always planned to close some operations and refresh others following its merger. Overlapping markets like Atlanta, Dallas, and Charlotte seemed like obvious locations to shut redundant facilities. But that doesn’t appear to have happened. Rather, there were obvious cuts, such as BMC’s historic headquarters in Boise, ID. There are the aforementioned design centers. And then there were many small-town locations that dropped off the list: Breese and Tolono, IL. Elkader, IA. Sandpoint and Post Falls, ID. Bemidji and Waseca, MN. Hoodsport, WA, and Evansville, WY.