Warranties remain vital
To no surprise, consumers remain very aware of warranties and their importance, and it’s important for dealer partners and contractors to be able to effectively sell those warranty benefits. “Our research has shown that customers do respond to warranties when it comes time to make a purchase decision,” says AZEK’s Barnds. “The [warranty’s] time period is one consideration and some people do correlate the length of the warranty with the quality of the product. But it seems that specifically calling out structural integrity (which would cover rot, decay, pests, etc.) and fading are the two most important factors today.”
Barnds goes on to say, “With that said, it’s not just the length of the warranty and what it covers. It’s also about knowing that the company that made the product is actually going to stand behind it and be around in case something does go wrong. No-name brands and imported products are minefields for consumers when it comes to major investments like a deck. Having a solid company with a history of standing behind the products they make is as important as any warranty.”
DuraLife’s Descoteaux echoes Barnds’ insights. “Consumers expect manufacturers to create quality products and what better way to demonstrate that commitment than with a comprehensive guarantee. At the end of the day, consumers want a beautiful deck that is strong and durable that requires little maintenance so they can spend their time enjoying it.”
Education is key for contractors and consumers
In order to capitalize on these trends and to best meet both contractors’ and homeowners’ needs when it comes to product purchase and long-term satisfaction, dealer education driven by the manufacturers is vital. “We recognize and value the importance of developing strong relationships with dealers,” explains YellaWood’s Riley, “and will continue to evolve our offerings to meet their needs. As part of this, we create materials that build interest in more projects, ultimately propelling contractors and consumers through dealers’ doors.” To that end, YellaWood offers in-store deck design displays project plan books for both contractors and consumers.
Similarly, Lonza works with its dealers and provides assets like point-ofpurchase literature, signage, and other creative materials that promote and educate contractors and consumers about the benefits of its wood products. “We are able to support our customers and their dealers in every aspect of their market,” says Lonza’s Rumbaugh, “from training in-store associates, to advertising, to outside sales efforts.”
“We want to reach decision makers as they are researching and/or specifying products well before they actually visit a retail location,” says Humboldt Redwood’s Hewitt, and to that end the manufacturer is focusing on a few key areas including social media and other educational resources. “To help build pull-through demand, we have educational materials available including design values, span tables, two American Institute of Architects approved continuing education courses, as well as a profile on the free architect-focused website, ARCAT.com.”
Education is even more of a focus when it comes to manufactured decking products, and being able to get samples into the hands of both builders and homeowners is key to being able to sell product aesthetics and value. “Through our free sample program, we capture both homeowner and contractor leads and send them to our dealers so they can help match contractors to consumers looking for our products,” explains DuraLife’s Descoteaux. “We provide point-of-sale displays at our retail partner locations that showcase our different products and outline their features and benefits, and we participate in co-op marketing initiatives to support individual retailer promotional efforts.”
“Being able to see and touch composite decking is an important part of the product selection process,” says MoistureShield’s Gwatney, “so we provide our dealers with displays that enable homeowners and contractors to experience our decking firsthand. This allows them to see the variegated patterning and other details that make our boards exceptionally beautiful.”
Predicting the future
Based on nothing else than manufacturers’ predicted growth numbers, both the immediate and long-term forecast for decking appears positive. There is more, however, than manufacturers’ viewpoints that suggests continued strong growth in the decking segment.
More and more Millenials are now buying houses. According to Zillow Group data, people aged 18 to 34 have become the largest group of homebuyers in the U.S. Compare that to a few years ago in 2012 when the Pew Research Center reported that, based on U.S. Census Bureau data, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 were living in their parents’ home.
And let’s not forget the previously mentioned trend of outdoor living, a trend that is especially positioned to provide growth opportunity for decking. In the aforementioned Houzz study on landscape trends, 69% of homeowners surveyed said they used their backyards for relaxing, and 48% indicated that they undertook major outdoor projects to increase their ability to utilize their backyards as a relaxing space. Decks came in as the third most completed project, and of those projects, 73% were completed by contractors/ builders.
When taken together, these factors point to 2018 as a strong year. It will be up to dealers and contractors, however, to stay as informed and educated as possible on material choices and benefits so that they can best take advantage of the coming market growth.
To learn more about these companies’ products, visit their websites.
Companies in bold participated in this article.
Cox Wood Preserving:
Green Bay Decking:
Humboldt Redwood Co.:
New Tech Wood:
Royal Building Products:
Wolf Home Products:
YellaWood Pressure Treated Pine: