Fleming Wholesale Supply Inc.
Fleming Wholesale Supply Inc. does a lot of heavy lifting on behalf on its customers, literally. “Our core business, and what we really do best, is weight-intensive products,” says Eric Fleming of the Ramer, Ala.-based distributor. “We carry a lot of stuff that the big-box stores don’t want to mess around with because they prefer something easier and higher margin.”
Oversized products carried by the company include supplement feed blocks for cattle ranging in size from 200 to 500 pounds, as well as heavy feeding equipment. “There’s less competition for us in these sorts of products,” Fleming adds.
Fleming Wholesale offers a variety of farm supplies including supplements, minerals, feed, fencing, salt, equipment, feeders, lawn and garden products and hunting supplies. The company’s customers include independent farm and outdoor supply stores in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana. Minimum order sizes range from three to five tons, depending on location. Drivers making regular deliveries use pallet jacks to move products to the tailgate of their trucks for customers, who then remove product from the truck.
Eric Fleming also owns Fleming Outdoors, a retail website offering animal traps, egg incubators, farm supplies and hunting supplies directly to consumers. “This site allowed us to break off some of our lower-weight, smaller items, allowing Fleming Wholesale to focus on what we do best,” he says.
Both businesses operate from a warehouse that stocks the vast majority of the products they offer. The company uses Monsoon Stone Edge order management software to receive, track and fill its orders.
The Personal Touch
Fleming Wholesale operates delivery trucks serving customers every two weeks. More urgent requests can be accommodated via UPS or FedEx or less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers within two days. Small packages are shipped via the U.S. Postal Service. “The larger a company is, the less flexible they are, but being a small, family owned company, we can be flexible and route around our customers if they are in need,” Eric Fleming says. “The only thing that really separates us from our competitors is our service – pricing is pretty competitive on just about everything we carry.”
The same driver performs the same delivery routes each time, which gives customers consistency and familiarity. “We prefer to have the same driver on each of the stops the truck makes, that way our customers see the same person,” he adds. “We want to have a personal connection with our customers.”
The company’s salesteam also keeps in weekly contact with the majority of their customers. Sales or other employees, including Fleming, can be readily reached. “I’m proud that our customers can call us and actually be able to get a live person on the phone,” he says.
Fleming Wholesale’s dedication to customer service is one common thread running throughout its history. The company was founded in 1982 by Earl Fleming, Eric’s father, in response to the need for a farm product distributor in the Southeast. Although the products the company carries today are very similar to those it distributed 33 years ago, “a lot has changed for us across the board,” Eric Fleming notes.
The rise of the Internet as a means to order and distribute products is one major change the company has seen within the past 20 years. Fleming Wholesale established its website in 2001. “We really wanted to ramp that up early,” he adds.
The company continues to evolve its online presence. “We’ve typically always advertised with our dealers through catalogs. This summer, we’re converting our website into a B2B site,” Fleming says. “I want to take everything I’ve learned on the retail side from Fleming Outdoor and apply it to our business customers.”
Customers will have logins to the new site, allowing them to order products online, track their purchase history and view wholesale prices and quantity discounts. “I order shipping boxes from ULINE because I can log into their website, look at my favorite items, order and log off within five minutes, and that’s what we’re looking to do for our customers,” he adds.
The expanded website would also allow the company to reach new markets including Texas and California, from where it is seeing more inquiries.
“In our industry, you grow by either having your customers open new stores or try to gain market-share by entering new areas,” Fleming says.