Beyond the rail
The growing appeal to make the deck and outdoor living space one’s own means not neglecting other extras, including lighting, pergolas, underdeck areas, and more. And this means growing opportunities for dealers to sell larger packages and more upgrades.
“Lighting is a key category,” Zambanini notes. “Consumers see the need to have those lights that define the outdoor space and create views and ambience, and it differentiates your home from your neighbor’s home.”
“More and more customers are seeing lighting in outdoor living; they’re seeing images on Houzz and other sites,” adds Harris. “It’s a stunning look, so they’re asking for it. And so contractors are asking us about it. We think outdoor accent lighting is really going to grow over the next few years. Lighting is just another part of creating a comfortable outdoor living space.”
Pergolas add a decorative touch and can be used as shading to keep the deck cooler, says Maglio, whose company sells pergolas in both custom styles and kits. Walpole also offers kits for building outdoor showers. Trex Lattice- Works, made with high-performance PVC in nine designs, can be used to enclose the bottom of the deck, create privacy screens, and other applications. The company also is increasing its furniture options, which are made with Polywood, a durable plastic lumber. New to the line are seven vibrant colors, such as sunset red and lime.
“We try to create that outdoor living experience for consumers, and we’re seeing contractors selling more and more of our accessories,” Zambanini says.
The underdeck area is a key focus point—what once may have been wasted space can now be transformed into additional living or storage area thanks to systems that install under the deck to keep the area dry or looking nice. Deckorators’ Fastendry system, for example, combines weatherproofing and deck board fasteners into one solution, making quick work of creating an underdeck space for living or storage. Versatex last year introduced Canvas, for creating a ceiling for porches or decks with roofs.
And accessories are only going to get more important and more extravagant as homeowners increasingly seek to bring the indoor conveniences outside. Think sound systems and other technologies and comforts like heaters or misters.
Savvy dealers are recognizing the opportunities with deck accessories. But the number of SKUs and offerings and options can be overwhelming. “Dealers can address this by focusing on what styles and materials are popular in their market and by selecting an offering that can address several styles with a single platform,” Herron advises. “If they are also able to find a signature railing option that a competitive dealer doesn’t stock, whether it is a specific color, infill option, or top rail shape, a dealer can use this to differentiate themselves.
In addition, instead of offering every customer everything under the sun, salespeople should get to know customers’ needs and wants. If lumberyards are tied down with inventory, Camfferman cautions, they may feel the need to push product on customers, and customers can sense that.
To learn more about these companies’ products, visit their websites.
Companies in bold participated in this article.
Aurora Deck Lighting:
BW Creative Railings:
Color Guard Railing Systems:
Fairway Architectural Railing Solutions:
Key-Link Fencing & Railing:
The Cable Connection (Ultra-Tec):
Wolf Home Products:
“[Be] as flexible as possible and [be] in tune with trends,” he advises. “[Ask] the customer how they’re going to use their deck and then curate products to meet the needs of their home, lifestyle, and décor.”
For example, what are the primary uses for the deck? Do they want multiple points of entry? Multiple levels? Do they have kids? Pets?
“Asking questions about how the deck and rail will be used is a good place to start so you’re not just throwing a bunch of options at customers,” Camfferman notes.
And good displays are crucial—not only showing samples, but, if there is space, partial decks, complete with railings and other accessories, that allow customers to look, touch, and experience the products.
“You have to make sure you have the right displays and merchandising in place,” Zambanini says. “Have an area to display with signage to explain the features and benefits. That’s a big deal over time. Have adequate merchandising, so you can help funnel contractors into a particular segment they’re trying to sell.”
“If there is space for a model deck and railing, that would be most effective,” notes Herron. “This allows dealers to use the live display to discuss the features and benefits of products and to showcase options.”
Railings have potentially thousands of design possibilities. Anything the dealer can do to simplify the process and inspire customers, the better.
After all, homeowners typically are only going to build a deck once or twice in their life, Camfferman notes. “If a dealer can be a resource and help make the process as easy as possible, it goes a long way. You can get that wordof- mouth referral that is so cherished in this industry.”