Reasons to be Enthusiastic

John G. Swanson
May 17, 2013
COLUMN : Opening Remarks | Management, Sales & Marketing

In this issue, we focus on entry doors, and I urge everyone to read our main feature article, "Entry Doors See Sales Resurgence," on page XX.  It offers a number of good insights into the door market, of course, but what I like about it is the enthusiasm manufacturers express across the board. 

Door manufacturers are reporting double-digit growth, thanks in no small part to the resurgence in new home construction. They are not just selling more doors, however, they are selling more expensive doors too.  Builders and consumers are increasingly willing to look at upgrade options.

The entry door article brought me back about 10 years, I must confess.  Back in the day, we were lucky to feature such stories on a regular basis. In one issue, it might be replacement windows, in another patio doors, but more often than not, when we looked at market trends the tone was positive. Unit sales were growing and demand for value-added options was on the rise as well.     

The Great Recession took us out of that mode. Could it be we’re back? Door manufacturers are excited about the opportunities ahead. Can we all be?

At this point, I’m guessing that most window and door companies that are still in business have seen some recovery in sales, even if they haven’t climbed back up to where we were before the housing and remodeling/replacement markets crashed. Depending upon the markets served, I’m sure there are window manufacturers, as well as dealers and distributors, that are just as enthusiastic as the door manufacturers about the outlook ahead. 

But I also know there are companies out there that remain frustrated by the lack of a stronger recovery. They remain very cautious in their outlook and their approach to running their business. And for the most part, I can’t say I blame them.   

Perhaps we can all learn a few things from the door manufacturers, however. Beyond market growth, they point to a growing trend toward a customized door. Door makers have branched out over the past decade with more door style options, more finish options and more decorative glass options. 

Beyond offering those options, door makers have also invested in tools to show them off. Many have embraced software systems that enable customers to go online and see how all the different options look. Some have tablet apps that enable them to take a photo of a home and show how various door options would look installed.   

Those efforts have paid off. Builders and homeowners are no longer satisfied with the merely functional. The look and design of the doors has grown much more important, and therefore, there’s greater willingness to spend more money—not just at the high end.

We all need to look at our product lines. Are we offering the options customers want? My guess is yes, for most companies. Among window manufacturers, there has been a steady increase in new product options in the area of finishes, grids and SDLs, and hardware.  Dealers, of course, can have all the door and window options they want by choosing the right suppliers.

I think door manufacturers are a step ahead of the rest of the industry on the selling tools, however. Most companies have brochures and even a website that present all the styles and options available, but is that enough to get the homeowner excited?  Are your salespeople able to get customers to look beyond what is the most energy efficient window or door to a product that can transform the look of a room, or the whole home?

Certainly, a rebound in sales depends greatly on the economy as a whole and the markets we’re in, but we should pay attention to what the door makers are telling us.  Opportunities are out there not only to sell more units, but to sell more value-added products.  Better selling tools may not be a necessity, but they may be key to building enthusiasm and, going forward, differentiating the most successful companies.