Midwesterners know: Menards is distinctive. Its massive stores are a supply hub for home improvement professionals and DIYers alike, but unlike its competitors, Menards is also a popular stop for pet supplies, appliances, and even groceries.
Brands who want to expand into big box retailers often mention Menards alongside familiar giants like Lowe’s and Home Depot, but its regional nature, inventory strategies and company values mean that selling Menards comes with unique challenges and opportunities.
If your company is preparing to approach Menards, here is what you need to know about the one-of-a-kind Midwestern chain.
1. Menards moves product!
Brands that want to sell Menards have to appreciate that it is bigger and smaller than its competitors all at once. It may have a fraction of Home Depot’s locations, but at around 200,000 square feet, an individual Menards store can be twice as large.
Despite its regional nature, Menards generates more annual sales per store than Home Depot or Lowes. While this is partly due to its enormous SKU count and variety of product categories, brands in the home improvement arena can still reap the benefits. The “one-stop” shopping experience that Menards offers gathers unbeatable foot traffic from consumers who want to get their whole list at one retail location.
2. Menards has more SKUs than Lowes or Home Depot.
Speaking of SKUS, Menards is home to a staggering 2.5 million of them – more than Home Depot or Lowes in every category.
Menards makes up for its small size by competing on options. It strives to offer shoppers an unparalleled variety of products, eliminating the need to shop elsewhere. The enormous size of each retail location makes it possible to offer the greatest possible assortment right there in the aisle.
3. Menards can be great for brands that are new to big box retail.
Because Menards’ product offerings are less curated, they may be more willing to take a chance on a challenger brand than their competitors.
Competition within brick and mortar stores can be brutal, but Menards’ abundance of shelf space means that it can give new products a try in the hopes that it will discover the next top seller. For brands who need their first break into big box retail, Menards may be the launching pad they’ve been looking for.
What’s more, because Menards has fewer locations than Lowes or Home Depot, it can be a more approachable introduction to big box retail. Brands who are still finding their feet may be more comfortable adjusting to the volume of Menards before committing to 1200 stores and a competing chain.
4. Menards is beloved by Midwesterners.
Shoppers outside of America’s heartland may not recognize the retailer, but Menards leans in hard to a deep-seated regional allegiance.
Menards is aware of its popularity, and uses it to go toe-to-toe with the competition. In fact, executives work to ensure that a Menards location is visible from the parking lot of each Midwestern Home Depot – an unsubtle invitation for shoppers to cross the street.
The company’s die-hard “customer-first” mentality is especially resonant with DIYers, who take advantage of generous shoppers’ programs like its famous 11% rebate for buyers who save their receipts. The other side of the coin? Menards’ commitment to offering deep discounts can sometimes make Pros wary of the quality of its unbranded building materials like lumber and drywall.
5. Anyone can pitch Menards.
Menards has a standing policy stating that it will take an appointment with any potential vendor – a breakthrough for brands who are struggling to find a seat at the table.
The merchant’s diplomacy is as potentially beneficial for its business as it is for yours. When Lowe’s or Home Depot passes on a product that’s destined to become the next big thing, it can always find a home at Menards.
6. Menards will not be undersold.
Brands who approach Menards should be aware that it monitors competitors’ prices to ensure that it always offers the best deal. To do this, it will sometimes lower the retail price of products below your initially agreed-upon MAP (minimum advertised price).
If you’re going to sell Menards, be prepared to compete on price. Further, because it is so committed to offering the best deal around, it’s a good idea to avoid stocking identical products in competing merchants’ stores. Lowe’s and Home Depot may take issue with the fact that the same SKUs will always be a few dollars cheaper across the street at Menards.
7. Menards is family-owned.
Menards has been a family business since it first launched in Eau Clair, Wisconsin in 1959. While this origin story gives the chain a folksy regional appeal, it is a powerhouse that commands the same buying power as Lowes and Home Depot at a third of their size. Because the company has remained privately owned and isn't beholden to shareholders, change can happen at lightning speed relative to the competition. This independence makes Menards executives famously shrewd negotiators.
This ability to rapidly innovate store policies, shopper deals and product offerings contributes to Menards’ steady growth, but it also presents big agility challenges for brands that will be expected to keep up.
8. Menards has high standards for its vendors.
Menards’ commitment to the customer experience extends to its expectations for its vendors. While fewer locations can make it more approachable for brands learning to handle big box volume, be aware that Menards expects an on-time fill rate of about 99%. Fail to meet this standard, and you will be fined.
9. Menards likes to make a deal.
Menards’ eye for a bargain can benefit brands who are interested in liquidating inventory to make room for new products or accommodate a packaging change.
The retailer will periodically offer to make one-time bulk buying deals that can help your company salvage unwanted or excess inventory. They pass the savings onto customers, further cementing their reputation as the regional discount king.
10. There’s no other big box retailer quite like Menards.
Because Menards’ corporate structure and approach to retail are distinct from its competitors, it’s important to recognize that the strategies that work best for pitching Lowe’s or Home Depot won’t always apply.
As you gather the consumer and product category research you will need to confidently approach Menards, consider how your brand fits into its specific mission and values. Give your brand the best possible start by seeking out a sales and marketing partner who is intimately familiar with how Menards does business.
Leverage the attributes that make Menards unique, and your brand can win big in the Midwest and beyond.