The Missing Link

What this industry needs is more retailers like Coastal Farm & Ranch, who ably carry the value proposition of pellet heating forward to customers, winning them over one by one.
By Tim Portz | October 06, 2017

 The past three years, we’ve focused at least one issue of Pellet Mill Magazine on a theme of infrastructure and distribution. All of this time, I’ve been pursuing sources for a story on big box retailers and the role they play in our industry. While their importance to our producer readers in the residential market is undeniable, I’ve come to the conclusion that my interest in the story was misguided. Big box retailers carry wood pellets because there is already demand within their customer base. Because of their size and reach, they are capable of moving some significant volume, and I expect they will be customers of pellet producers for a long time to come. Big box retailers expend no energy in acquiring new users of wood pellets. To be fair, this doesn’t fall into their purview, and I certainly don’t blame them. That said, there are retailers out there who do have a passion for wood heat, and it was my great pleasure to learn about and report on one of them, Coastal Farm & Ranch, for my page-18 feature “To Market, To Market.”

For the story, I contacted Matt Brownell, the heating and cooling buyer at Coastal Farm & Ranch, at the recommendation of Pellet Mill Magazine editorial board member and Pellet Fuels Institute chairman Stan Elliot. Elliot believes that Coastal Farm & Ranch is setting a very high bar with its hearth department, where pellets and pellet appliances represent a significant share of business. Each of Coastal’s hearth departments are staffed with a manager, and Brownell anticipates that the company will sell more than 1,000 pellet appliances this year. Beyond that, Brownell and Coastal take the responsibility of ensuring that their customers who have purchased pellet appliances always have access to high-quality fuel. For a handful of seasons, this has proven difficult, but they’ve always managed to get it done.

Coastal expects to sell somewhere around 20,000 tons of wood pellets this year. This probably pales in comparison to the volumes that most big box retailers will move, but despite that, I can’t help but think that what this industry needs is more retailers like Coastal Farm & Ranch, who ably carry the value proposition of pellet heating forward to customers, winning them over one by one.


Author: Tim Portz
Vice President of Content & Executive Editor
tportz@bbiinternational.com