Named after baseball legend Miller Huggins, who led the New York Yankees to their first six American League pennants and three World Series championships during the 1920s, this Anderson, Indiana-based dealership started out selling cash registers. Not long after the doors opened though, the business added other office equipment along with office supplies and furniture. Miller Huggins is locally owned and operated and now an employee-owned corporation.
Equipment continues to be an important category at the company. “We sell copiers, printers, folding machines, shredders and plotters (large format printers),” says Steven Foster, president. “We’re a proud authorized Canon dealer and have been for more than 39 years.”
The company is structured in two divisions. The equipment department handles all equipment sales and services, while the office department looks after supply and furniture sales. Each section has its own customer solution specialist to ensure that customers’ needs are priority one.
“Since I took over eight years ago I have diversified as customers continue to strive for a paperless office,” says Foster. In addition to more common new categories such as janitorial and breakroom, the dealership has also added education and medical products.
When janitorial sales first started at Miller Huggins, a specialist was brought on board to help establish this category. That specialist is no longer there but the training has carried through and today the sales team is well prepared for this market. “Three years ago we were named one of the largest growing Jan/San dealers by Independent Stationers [now Independent Suppliers Group],” said Steven. Janitorial and breakroom products have become the two fastest growing categories at the company.
Foster believes that as the industry continues to change due to acquisitions, alliances and other combinations, Miller Huggins will become even more competitive. “I’m trying to stay positive to see how this will shake out between bricks-and-mortar big box and other online competitors,” says Foster. As customers increase their online purchases he recognizes that Amazon might be his biggest competition.
There are no tricks to competing with online sellers, he suggests. Independent dealers have an edge because they’re able to offer personal services that are not available from online suppliers. “We deliver and set up everything we sell,” explains Foster. “When a customer buys a chair from Miller Huggins it’s assembled, operations are checked and it is delivered directly to the end user. If there’s a problem or any damage we take care of it on the spot.”
That service approach is more challenging for the online sellers and big boxes of the world. Miller Huggins also works with customers, educates them about proper ergonomics and makes sure their workstations are properly organized.
“We want customers to understand that we’re there as product solution specialists, not just to tell them what’s for sale online,” says Foster. When salespeople are challenged by a customer’s request, they will bring this back to the company to discuss their concerns with the tenured management team. “Management will brainstorm to find the best solution and how we can assist that customer to achieve their goals,” he adds.
Miller Huggins maintains a retail store in downtown Anderson that’s open Monday through Friday. Foster has seen retail competition diminish from three big box stores in the immediate market to just one. “Walk-in traffic is better than it used to be but that is not a target,” says Foster. The company focuses on commercial sales, which are critical for success. Still the retail store has an open-door policy so business customers can come in and try out a new pen or look at the latest products. “If we have residential customers who walk in, they are more than welcome to purchase as well.”
Key management team members: Steven Foster: president/COB, Kent Freeman: Corporate Treasurer/Secretary
Products carried: Office Supplies / Janitorial / Breakroom / Equipment / Furniture / Educational / Medical
Year founded: 1932
Number of employees: 19
Key business partners: Independent Suppliers Group (Proud Founder #0004),