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Advice on Selling Composite Decking From Industry Expert
6 years, 1 month ago Posted in: Industry News 0

4 Ways to Capture More of the Decking Market

By Brent Gwatney, AERT  SOURCE: BuildingProducts.com

Watching the housing market’s slow recovery is like rooting for your favorite underdog sports team: the constant hope for success is punctuated by brief triumphs that are soon dashed by the latest setback. How much more can dealers and builders take? Fortunately, one area that’s looking up is decking.

The U.S. decking products market will grow 2.7% per year through 2014 and be valued at $6.2 billion, according to the Freedonia Group. Composites will drive approximately 70% of the growth in lineal feet.

As builders begin looking for the most profitable decking options, there are several actions dealers can take to help boost sales and revenues:

Emphasize Performance

moistureshield_picAlthough pricing still plays a strong role in building material choice, performance attributes often trump price. From a survey of builders, global management firm LEK Consulting found that “despite price pressure, durability remains the most important product selection factor as contractors want to prevent costly customer callbacks and avoid added or unexpected installation time driven by inferior products.”

In the case of decking, wood-plastic composites provide a good opportunity for dealers to showcase durability. Manufacturers anticipate that composites will last two to three times longer than wood decking, depending on the product. Underscoring this, some composites are available with limited warranties, up to 20 years to lifetime. A strong warranty provides the builder with an effective selling point to homeowners, giving them peace of mind that their deck investment will last for many years.

In addition, some composite decking manufacturers use production processes that totally encapsulate the wood fibers in plastic. Such materials resist moisture and insect damage, and builders also can install them with direct ground or water contact.

These performance features provide a way to sell higher-value materials to builders who have traditionally used wood decking. And, given the breadth of composite options available, there isn’t necessarily a large jump in price for greater product durability and longevity. Composite decking manufacturers provide a range of product lines, from entry-level materials to higher-end decking with specialty features such as additional color choices or enhanced stain and fade resistance. This variety enables a dealer’s sales staff to best target a composite product to each builder’s needs.

Bundle Value-Added Components

Dealers know that offering combination deals on various materials can be a good way to boost sales. It’s the “would you like fries with that?” approach, but taken to a higher level of sophistication.

When selling deck boards, a natural extension to the package is offering the builder complementary railing components. Homeowners increasingly value railing, which helps drive overall growth in decking material demand. Freedonia’s deck report points out that “many homeowners will install additional railings and other accessories to create separate areas for dining and entertaining, or to add safety features to prevent falls by small children or older adults.” It’s all part of the greater popularity of outdoor living spaces.

As with wood, composite decking is available with matching posts, post caps, rails and balusters. In some instances, dealers may also wish to package outdoor lighting or sound systems with the decking and railing-especially for railing components that have hidden grooves or channels for wiring.

Fasteners provide another potential bundling opportunity. Builders may not perceive a strong benefit if the packaged item is just deck screws, but offering them a deal on a hidden fastening system can provide a cost-effective way for them to give their customers a deck with a higher-end finish.

Showcase Design Flexibility

Since many homeowners are interested in decks that reflect their unique tastes, dealers can help builders achieve this by offering a wide selection of decking colors and patterns. Composites are available in a multitude of colors: wood hues such as cedar, walnut, tiger wood and mahogany, as well as grays, earth tones, and other tints. Builders can readily mix and match colors of deck boards and/or railing components to create interesting patterns.

Composites also come in a variety of shallow- and deep-embossed patterns to simulate the look of wood grain. This feature can be an important selling point to builders or homeowners who value the appearance of traditional wood decking.

Builders can use curved deck, stair, rail, and trim elements to further expand the designs they offer their customers. While wood can be challenging to bend depending on the species and the nature of the application, with some composites, builders can heat the material and readily form a variety of shapes.

Highlight Green Attributes

In some markets-and frequently with higher-end homes-green features are important to homeowners. Although environmental attributes alone usually do not drive product buying decisions, they can be an important differentiator.

One of the primary reasons demand is growing for composite decking is its green features. However, not all composites are equal in this regard. While some include little or no recycled materials, brands are available with high total recycled content. This can include both pre- and post-consumer content for wood fiber and plastic.

There are two key selling points dealers can make for high-recycled content composite decking: (1) it diverts large quantities of waste from landfills, and (2) it can help builders earn green project ratings under popular programs like LEED for Homes.

In addition, your decking materials manufacturer may offer incentives or dealer marketing tools. Among these are rebate programs, customer leads and referrals, technical support and training, and special offers. Contact them for information on how they can help support your business.

– Brent Gwatney is vice president of sales and marketing for composite decking producer MoistureShield, Springdale, Ar. Reach him at bgwatney@aert.cc or (866) 729-2378.

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