Positioning for Better Times Ahead at IBS

January 17, 2011
Meetings & Events

Orlando, Fla.–A fairly upbeat mood prevailed at last week's International Builders' Show, despite evidence that there's still plenty of caution about housing and the economy. Although the show filled only one hall of the Orange County Convention Center and attracted about half as many people as the last edition held here, window and door manufacturers exhibiting at the show seemed more focused on the longer term, with less talk about survival and more about positioning for better times ahead.

 Although this year's IBS didn't see the crowds previously seen three years ago when it was held in Florida, most exhibitors were pleased with the traffic in their booths.

Attendance for the National Association of Home Builders' annual trade show was estimated to be about 50,000 people. Despite a lower attendance level, most exhibitors expressed satisfaction with the traffic they were seeing. "The people who are here want to do things," said GlassCraft Door's Michael O'Shea. "We see it as a positive sign for business going forward."

One way a number of companies appear to be positioning themselves to move forward is greater emphasis on increasing sales by creating bundles of products beyond windows and doors. One example at the NAHB show was The Designed Exterior Collection, a series of nine housing-style vignettes featured in the Ply Gem booth. The manufacturer of windows, siding, decorative stone and other building products has put together different product groupings—along with guidelines for combining them—to help customers "build architecturally accurate homes with confidence," explained the company's John Stephenson. Window and door dealers benefit because the program inspires customers to look beyond white windows and basic styles toward higher-end decorative options.

Also positioning itself with a bundled product line was Therma-Tru Doors, which was emphasizing not just doors but complete entrances decorated with synthetic millwork products in numerous housing styles. Parent company Fortune Brands had brought Fypon into the Therma Tru fold as a way to save costs, but having the two companies together under one umbrella "enabled us to deliver an enhanced package that delivers real value," said David Randich, president.

Other companies looking to get more from each sale included Andersen Corp., which was highlighting new exterior trim options for its Series 200 and 400 products. Introduced last year with the company's A-Series windows and doors, the exterior trim is made from the company's Fibrex material and is offered in a variety of styles and colors. What's also appealing about the trim package, noted Andersen's Stacy Einck-Eckberg, is the ease of installation. Components can be ordered with windows and delivered cut-to-size and ready to install. "Trimming out the windows in a home typically takes a couple of days. With this package, the job can be done in as little as half a day," she notes.

The broader approach was not just highlighted by manufacturers. Royal Group showcased its window systems, as well as exterior trim packages and new interior shutter designs for its fabricators.

 Wide-opening doors, including this sliding vinyl pocket door from Florida's Custom Window Systems, enjoyed a strong presence at IBS again.

Of course, companies were talking about other initiatives to position themselves for an expected upturn.  Milgard Windows & Doors, which had been working to expand from its West Coast market several years ago, was talking about moving into new territories again. Gregg Proscia, who recently joined the company as director of business development, reported that Milgard has recently expanded into Texas and will next be looking to establish more dealers in the East.  Utah's Amsco Windows has established dealers in the Carolinas and New York and is also looking elsewhere in the East, reported the manufacturer's Kyle Hendren.  

Some companies were talking about new market segments. CGI Windows & Doors was highlighting its new Sentinel line. The company has focused on high-end impact resistant products, but with the new offering it is targeting a broader range of single-family home applications, including remodeling and replacement, said the company's Len Quist. Another Florida-based manufacturer, WinDoor Inc., was highlighting its new vinyl window line. A provider of wide-opening sliding door systems, the new line meets the most stringent impact-requirements, reported Frank Lukens, which enables the company to target schools, hospitals and many other projects it has not tackled in the past. 

Product Trends
WinDoor, which was making its IBS debut, was also showcasing its large sliding door systems. It was one of many companies featuring such products in Orlando, suggesting the trend toward more wide-opening systems is continuing to gain momentum. Such products were highlighted once again by NanaWall, PGT, Solar Innovations, Weiland and Marvin, as well as hardware suppliers like Centor Architectural and Hoppe. In addition, Kolbe & Kolbe, which featured a large lift-and-slide door last year, introduced a new bi-fold door this year. Andersen also featured a new folding door system. 

High performance without compromising design was a theme struck by Inline and several other manufacturers. 

Also of note was a new multi-panel pocket sliding door being featured by Custom Window Systems.  What makes the door unique is that it is made of vinyl, compared to most such doors which feature aluminum or wood framed panels. The Florida manufacturer has switched nearly all its production to vinyl in recent years, noted the company's John Kwik. Also taking a unique approach with this product is Ply Gem, which was featuring a pocket door system targeted at more mid-range homes, said the company's Chris Pickering.

Energy efficiency continues to be emphasized as well.  Of note were new triple-glazed offerings from wood window producers Kolbe & Kolbe and Marvin. Kolbe's Cindy Bremer noted that the wider pocket has presented challenges for wood window designs, but the company sees increased demand for such high performance.

 Manufacturers continued to point out green product attributes at this year's show.

Ply Gem was highlighting R-5 vinyl products featuring an array of exterior colors and interior woodgrains, emphasizing that high performance does not necessarily mean a plain white window.  Inline Fiberglass was striking a similar theme with a new window designed to offer R-5 and R-6 performance without sacrificing style.

Green themes were evident throughout the show. Silver Line Windows was one of several companies touting the fact that its products were "NAHB Research Center Green Approved." The label is designed to indicate products comply with criteria established under the National Green Building Standard.

Hardware Offerings
Some of the most noteworthy window and door products at this year's show featured unique new hardware. The new Ultimate Glider window from Marvin can be opened and closed with one hand using a new recessed lock with a handle that pulls out. The company's John Kirchner noted that it's been some time since his company had looked at this product line and decided it was time for an overhaul. The handle is lower down on the window to be easier to use and less obtrusive, he explained.

Marvin featured a new horizontal sliding window with low-profile hardware designed to allow one-hand operation. 

Quanex Building Products featured a unique new sliding door offered by one of its manufacturer customers–Haddon Windows & Doors–in its booth. In place of a traditional lock, the SecuraSeal door features two full-length aluminum profiles in one of the jambs. To lock the doors, the user lifts a handle and the profiles separate to engage within a chamber running the full length of the door stile.  The lock provides enhanced security while being very simple to operate, noted John Haddon Jr., who said the company will launch the door officially in about a month.

Among hardware manufacturers exhibiting, Schlage featured a new alarmed lock that can detect a range of actions and alert homeowners of activity with their entry doors. Unlike traditional alarms that trigger only when the door is opened, the hardware can sound an alert if someone is kicking the door or tampering with the lock. It also can alert homeowners if a child is trying to leave the house. 

Fiberglass Doors
IBS presented further evidence that fiberglass doors continue to be one of the most active segments of the industry as far as product development. New Craftsman woodgrain design choices were highlighted by MasterGrain, which also displayed a new fiberglass SDL product. RightConcept was highlighting new walnut and chestnut finishes as well as a new fiberglass framing system and a higher-definition versions of its door panels.

 New fiberglass door panel designs and finishes were prevalent at IBS once again.

Glasscraft Door, a long-time wood door maker, showcased nearly all fiberglass doors at IBS this year as it launches its new line.  Among the options it featured were distressed finishes designed for homes where a more rustic look is desired. 

Therma Tru was emphasizing its new Canvas Collection, a line of its smooth fiberglass doors designed to offer more panel design choices to those customers preferring a painted door.  Another new feature it was highlighting on its door lines were operable sidelites. 

More detailed information on these new products and many others introduced at this year's show is featured in a special section of WindowandDoor.com.  More information on the show itself–scheduled next year for February 8-11–is available at www.buildersshow.com.