Mitigating Risk and Managing Expectations: Merchants Fasteners Expects the Unexpected

February 6, 2024

With over 13,000 SKUs and growing, Merchants Fasteners Corp. supplies the vast majority of the domestic fenestration industry. Any hiccup in the supply chain can have disastrous results – to Merchants and its customers.

Planning for the unexpected isn’t new a new concept for Merchants, a third-generation, family-owned and operated business founded in 1946. Years before the global COVID pandemic, the company began a sophisticated contingency planning effort: what would happen if a natural disaster, such as a tsunami or earthquake, wiped out a major factory or an entire region? What impact would a geo-political event have on the company’s supply chain?

Merchants executives discussed these questions for many years . . . and then began making changes.

The Merchants team first began analyzing its supply chain to locate potential gaps and downfalls should a catastrophic event occur. This work included researching, testing, and vetting factories outside of the main countries of origin – the result of which increased Merchants production capabilities and helped secure contingency plans.

“Being heavily reliant on production in one centralized area wasn’t good long-term,” says Josh Kelinson, Chief Operation Officer and Managing Director. “We had to look outside our existing business model and plan for the ‘what-ifs.’”

Merchants’ business model is based on ensuring the company has what customers need, at the time they need it, so being proactive was key. Josh says his favorite saying, and one he lives by, is “Fail to plan, and you will plan to fail.”

Next, the company focused on creating centralized internal departments such as operations, accounting, customer retention and support, along with imports and foreign relations, to name a few.

“We realized very quickly that one or two people couldn’t be experts in everything,” says Josh, “so we promoted from within as well as hired experts for the new departments. It was a huge step forward from a business operation standpoint – one that allowed us to expand our reach and spend more time on the individual needs of our customers.”

Result: Minimal hiccups and supply chain disruptions during COVID

“COVID was a good learning experience,” says Josh. “You can plan for the unexpected, but actually going through an event makes everything more real.”

Leveraging their vast array in inventory, Merchants was able to offer substitute items to customers in order to keep their plants open and running when others were not – “a true testament to our experience and knowledge in the fastener and fenestration space,” says Josh.

“Safety stock, and deep-rooted inventory, has become a key selling point for us,” he adds. “We invest heavily in inventory so that when a customer calls, we can deliver.”

The company has several containers on the water at any given time. Coordinating all of this is a complex task, which Josh credits not only with their pre-planning and building out of departments, but also to working with good quality freight-forwarders.

According to Josh, the company has a very close-knit group of professionals that go the extra mile when it comes to business. Lines of communication within the company are always open; department heads and team leads watch the news to understand what’s going on outside the company. From there, discussions take place, solutions are proposed, and action taken.

Benefit of focus: the right fastener for any application

While the company has extensive stock, what they’re best at is providing custom fastener solutions to common problems. If a customer experiences challenges within a particular application, it’s very likely Merchants has seen the problem before and can offer a solution – whether a stock size or something manufactured to the customer’s specifications.

Merchants also has conceptualized its own specialty fasteners to solve or improve customers’ installation or assembly processes. For example, the Vyn-L-Hold screw features the company’s own twist and design to reduce boss cracking, material damage, and pull-out in fastening plastics, PVC vinyl, particle board, and composite material.

Customers can also take advantage of value-added services, such as painted heads, laser sorted screws for automatic feeds, and decorative platings and finishes.

To learn more about Merchants Fasteners, visit:


Prediction: “2024 will be a reset year”

When asked what concerns him about the future of the window and door industry, Josh Kelinson, Chief Operation Officer and Managing Director for Merchants Fasteners grew thoughtful.

One thing that attracted him to work for his family’s business (after spending over a decade in owning online marketing and advertising businesses) was the “old-school mentality” that’s unique to the fenestration industry.

“The relationships between people were based on trust,” he says, “and business was done in-person instead of over email or Instant Messenger. People knew one another personally, they remembered birthdays and the milestones in their customers’ lives. COVID has definitely changed these things, and my concern is, where is technology, including AI, taking us?

“The pre-COVID years were benchmark years; the events in 2022 and 2023 I don’t think any business or industry ever expected. I believe 2024 will be a reset year, meaning business will look and feel different. It will be interesting to see what that ‘different’ is.”

Given Merchants’ ability to anticipate change, it’s a sure bet these changes are discussed at length within the company – as well as what the company needs to do to ensure it can continue to supply fasteners on time as promised for many years to come.