Bradley Caldwell Inc.

Providing farm, garden and pet supplies to independent retailers in the East
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Elizabeth Towne

Bradley Caldwell Inc. (BCI) dates back to the 1940s when the business’ ancestor companies, New Holland Supply Company and Caldwell Supply Company, served as active distributors for the agricultural industry, as well as homeowners, gardeners and pet guardians.

Jim Bradley Sr. “Jim Sr.” began working with New Holland Supply Company in 1975 when the company’s owners recruited him to build up the brand to sell a few years later. Jim Sr. recruited his son, Jim Bradley II “Jim”, who opened a branch warehouse in Ohio. In 1979, the father-son duo bought out the original owners. In 1996, the company merged with Caldwell Supply Company, resulting in larger territory and a name change.

Today, Jim owns the business and leads the company as president and CEO. He purchased BCI from his father in 1994 and has since worked tirelessly to maintain steady growth throughout the Northeast United States. Jim’s experience spans more than four decades, leading a strong sales team and distribution staff of approximately 350 employees altogether.

The crew operates from two large buildings in Hazelton, Pa. BCI operates 430,000 square feet of combined warehouse space, offering more than 22,000 SKU to a growing clientele from Maine to Virginia to Michigan.

Bradley Caldwell Inc.

Serving a broad market

BCI is a diversified company. The business has a massive offering, featuring several categories from home and lifestyle products to horse grooming supplies. Independent retailers can browse and order online to create shipments to fill their stores. BCI ships its own products and also relies on some manufacturers for direct shipping.

While browsing online, customers can find products broken down into eight categories: pet; home and lifestyle; pest control; tools and fencing; lawn, garden and pond; wild bird and wildlife; barn and veterinary supply; and equine and livestock. An easy-to-browse menu setup makes ordering easy and customers can count on quick turnaround for all of the company’s diverse products.

Customers can always find the basics, such as gardening tools, dog food or buckets. However, Jim strives to keep up with a market that demands innovation; flea and tick treatments become more sophisticated, or new grooming trends come to bass for horse caretakers.

“In any 12-month period, we introduce 3,000 to 5,000 new items,” Jim explains. “In order to keep enough space and keep our costs down, that means we have to get rid of the same amount.” Jim’s team stays ahead of trends, gauging consumer interest and staying in touch with customers for vital feedback. Jim knows that the best way to serve his customers is to help them serve theirs.

The business also sponsors two unique trade shows. “This is a big deal for our industry,” Jim elaborates. “We provide an atmosphere where our vendors can interact with our customers and market their products. We have one in Hershey, Pa., and another in New Jersey. It is always a large event and we have had around 450 manufacturer lines and 900 customers. In 2014, we are having LeeAnne Rimes perform for our guests and we do big giveaways for big ticket items, such as top of the line automobiles.”

Surviving economic change

With the recent economic downturn, Jim and his team have managed to maintain stability, although not without cost. In 2008, the business purchased a distributorship in Cincinnati. In July 2013, it closed. The recession had a big impact on the way consumers purchase, driving many to big-box stores or large online retailers to save money. The consolidation was painful, but necessary.

Fortunately, the struggle has paid off. BCI is growing again and now Jim and his team face a new set of challenges. The company is reaching out to new customers throughout the service region, marketing hard. Consumers are spending more money than a few years ago and with other industries, the home, farm, garden and pet businesses are growing. Managing growth has become increasingly important, while simultaneously balancing demand with inventory. Jim notes that he has placed a higher emphasis on pet products and lawn and garden products as the market recovers.

The next step is to increase capacity. BCI is hiring and Jim knows that in order to succeed, he needs to have the right team. Finding qualified people who are dedicated to the business has been a challenge and will continue to be a major point of the company’s growth. Jim’s plan is to take things slow and steady. While he usually sets high goals for every year, his focus for 2014 is to put the brakes on a little bit and make sure growth is sustainable. Without growing too fast, Bradley Caldwell Inc. has the potential to build an even stronger market share for several distinct product categories.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Tingley Rubber Corp.
W.F. Young Inc.