glass panel railing
Although COVID-19 has created a roller coaster-like business environment for many industries, it has unexpectedly triggered a massive surge in home renovations, especially in the creation (or upgrade) of outdoor spaces. Families canceled their travel plans, accepted the "accommodation cation" mentality, and reinvested travel funds into their homes. As the lockdown policy forces people to spend more and more time in the backyard, they find that the more time they spend there, the more they want to stay there. Katrina Ralston, President of Feeney Inc. said: "Homeowners are participating in home improvement projects to make their homes as pleasant and versatile as possible. People are embracing their outdoor spaces, especially the demand for decks is increasing. "
Jeff Schulz, vice president of channel sales for Fortress Building Products, agrees. As he explained, “Because COVID-19 lasts longer than many people initially hoped, consumers have shifted most of their discretionary spending from areas such as travel to improving personal outdoor living spaces.”
Jase DeBoer, senior marketing manager at Deckorators, also sees the pandemic as the main factor affecting how homeowners spend their money in 2020. More time in their property than ever
Line," he explained. "Many American homeowners invest in new decks to expand and personalize their living spaces. Avant-garde composite decks, railings and accessories help deck builders create unique vacations at home-outdoor family room, outdoor dining experience, lodging location, etc. "
So, what does the increase in demand mean for the upcoming construction season compared to last year? Manufacturers see that good things are coming soon. Craig Smalley, National Brand Manager of Wild Hog Products, said: "Just as we saw the explosive growth of the DIY market in 2020, we expect this trend to grow further in 2021." It has revived people’s appreciation for outdoor living and backyard projects. We believe that this appreciation and demand for creative, customizable and simple products will create record sales in 2021."
Schulz of Fortress Building Products also predicted growth. "Looking forward to the next 12 months," he said, "home sales and start-ups will continue to drive industry growth, as we see families are striving for more outdoor living spaces that have traditionally appeared in suburban markets. Industry research tells us that consumers will Invest in large items such as new decks to make the most of their backyard."
This expected growth is not without cost, as it has the potential to cause pain for LBM dealers, especially in terms of product supply and availability, price fluctuations, and the availability of staff to handle the needs of homeowners. "Homeowners invest in expanding their outdoor living spaces, which benefits our industry," said Heather Bowman, marketing director for advanced plastic products and Key-Link fences and railings. "Unfortunately, the epidemic has also brought challenges to the supply chain. Raw material prices have risen and fluctuated greatly, which has also affected our pricing. These problems seem to be industry-wide."
Manufacturers pointed out that the supply chain is simply not ready to cope with the continued growth brought about by 2020, and they will still face challenges in the coming year to fully meet demand. “The factory has just started to catch up, and any overseas orders have container availability and transportation issues,” explains Roland Pfender, CEO and President of Absolute Distribution Inc. (ADI), which markets and distributes DekPro Prestige aluminum railings, DekPro EFFEX lighting, DekPro InvisiCable and DekPro aluminum railings. "The U.S. is not preparing fast enough to bring all manufacturing back to shore. Frankly speaking, many products produced overseas are not produced by American manufacturers."
Of course, the pandemic itself is unpredictable. Depending on how it develops during the 2021 construction season, it may herald continued growth or decrease in homeowner spending. Key-Link’s Bowman pointed out: “If the stimulus continues and the pandemic is under control, we expect steady growth.” “If the economy declines, we expect business to also slow down because homeowners will be less willing or unable to Spend money on home furnishings such as porches or decks."
However, all this potential growth does not mean that people spend money unscrupulously on outdoor spaces just to create a plain canvas. Instead, they are looking for deck railings and accessory products that can create clean, simplified lines, provide barrier-free vision, high-end feel, and aesthetically trendy methods.
"As people spend more time at home and the related outdoor living investment continues to increase," Feeney's Ralston explained, "We are seeing increasing emphasis on creating unique and personalized platforms and terraces. Same as indoor spaces. , Homeowners are looking for interesting finishes and designs to create a unique look and allow them to express their personal design style. For example, compared to traditional railings with wooden railings, newer railing options (such as laser cutting Aluminum plate filler) creates a fresh aesthetic. Homeowners can even request custom laser-cut panels, which adds a lot of design flexibility."
Because of its ability to provide unobstructed views, one kind of railing product trend is gaining momentum, and that is the ropeway. As Ralston continues to explain, “After all, if you can spend more time outdoors admiring the scenery—whether it's your backyard, ocean or mountains—you want to be able to fully experience and appreciate the scenery and connect with others. Nature. The cable railing not only preserves the view, but also creates an elegant and clean appearance with minimal maintenance. These factors make it a very attractive choice for many homeowners."
Aluminum parts, such as columns and lighting equipment, are also in great demand because of the high-end feel they create. "Simplified railing systems, such as pre-assembled aluminum railings and cable railings, continue to gain momentum," said DeBoer of Dekorators. "Lighting options such as stair lights, string lights and luminous caps are becoming common ways to add atmosphere to outdoor spaces and create restaurant dining or cafe experiences."
RailFX marketing director Lindsey Fox pointed out how mixed materials continue to be popular in exterior designs ranging from furniture, lighting, and surfaces to decks and railings. She explained: "Using contrasting materials such as wood and metal in a design gives customers the opportunity to merge their love of modernity and tradition into a new look."
However, compared with mixed materials, Fox also sees a trend of seamless fusion of colors to match the architectural style of homes. To cater to this trend, manufacturers began to provide custom-colored railing components. As she explained, "Although our four stock colors are consistent and complementary to products in the decoration industry, we believe that it is equally important to provide our customers with customized colors with specific designs."
Not surprisingly, there is still a high demand for low-maintenance products. "We are seeing demand for low-maintenance products in general," said ADI's Pfender. "In certain categories, for example, horizontal railings (aka bar-style railings) seem to be the next big thing. Discerning consumers are looking for different things, such as the beauty of aluminum railings or stainless steel railings."
Jeff Schulz of Fortress also sees a growing demand for low-maintenance railing products, especially in aluminum. "We have seen the emergence of aluminum railing products," he pointed out. "The once humble products have been replaced by low-maintenance solutions that provide an elegant and relaxed style without being decomposed by bad weather (including ice, snow, rain and ultraviolet light)."
Perhaps the analogy of Pandora's Box during a pandemic is bad form, but once something is released, it cannot be put back in the box. This is the case with e-commerce. According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Digital Commerce 360, by 2020, consumers’ online spending at U.S. merchants will reach 861 billion U.S. dollars, a year-on-year increase of 44%, which is the highest annual growth rate of e-commerce in the U.S. for at least one year or two decades . Fortress’s Schultz said: “Research tells us that, given the pandemic, 35% of customers would rather buy the company’s products without interacting with salespeople.”
Unfortunately, many LBM distributors have been slow to adopt e-commerce tools to provide more and more purchase methods that customers want. This is an error that the LBM dealer cannot afford. "COVID-19 is having an intergenerational impact on consumer purchases and a massive shift to e-commerce transactions," Schultz continued. "In order to remain competitive, LBM dealers need to adopt a business model that can meet the buying preferences of new consumers. At the very least, they should implement the "online purchase, in-store pick pp" plan."
Heather Bowman of Key-Link agreed. "Ordering and planning the technical upgrade of the project is very helpful," she pointed out. "Anything that can be done quickly on a mobile phone or tablet. The contractor can quickly calculate the numbers and price the homeowner, or just place an order online and complete the work, which is great for the contractor."
Although many LBM dealers sell most of the deck railings and accessories from professional buyers, the DIY crowd is turning to the same sources as the professionals for their projects in record numbers. In a series of consumer surveys conducted by Farnsworth Group and Home Improvement Research Institute, figures show that as of June last year, nearly 80% of homeowners reported that they had started DIY home maintenance, replacement, repair or renovation projects. A 2020 study by Bank of America found that more than 70% of respondents decided to tackle home improvement projects during the pandemic and plan to do more in 2021.
Adding fuel to the DIY wave of deck projects is that professional teams cannot participate in the project. As Deckorators’ Jase DeBoer points out, “Many construction professionals have already booked decoration and outdoor living jobs in the summer of 2021.”
To make the best use of this changing business landscape, manufacturers recommend that LBM dealers develop strategies that include DIY sales as part of their revenue formula. "I believe more than ever that distributors need to listen to customers and track their needs," said Smalley of Wild Hog Products. "Distributors should understand who their customers are and what drives their decisions. Distributors should also seek to expand and invite new customer bases. DIY is a perfect example. Distributors with DIY-friendly products will see in 2020 When it comes to the amazing growth of a business unit, these business units are usually afraid to walk in their doors."
So, what can LBM dealers get from all this information? When it comes to deck railings and accessories, they may look forward to a crazy journey in the coming year. The sharp increase in demand for outdoor living space will definitely put pressure on manufacturers, but this does not mean that LBM dealers will be affected. On the contrary, preparing a series of products to meet these challenges can produce surprising and profitable results.
Michael Berger is the former editor-in-chief of HANDY magazine and has been writing articles about home improvement and architecture for the past 20 years.