ORLANDO, FLA. —Builders and vendors were looking to the future at the International Builders’ Show held here last week. They’re expecting the market to rebound—hopefully later this year, maybe in 2009. And as they toured the exhibits here on the show floor, they also saw glimpses of future trends.
The green theme was extremely pronounced, as the National Association of Home Builders launched its National Green Building Program. And so was a move by residential-focused companies to venture in varying degrees to light commercial construction.
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Meanwhile, pro dealers in attendance were building relationships and promoting their services in traditional fashion. At the Carter Lumber booth, for example, execs spoke about a focus on the small to mid-size builder, but also an expansion on light-commercial accounts.
Joe Appelmann, president of Stock Building Supply, promoted a service-oriented message. “We think that there are still a lot of people who don’t know we can do this,” he said, pointing to an elaborate kitchen design set up in his booth. Stock and Ferguson, sister companies under the umbrella of Wolseley North America, are deep in an initiative to find synergies between the two brands.
The official opening ceremony key note brought out political consultants Mary Matalin and James Carville, a married couple on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Matalin earned applause when she told the crowd that she was proud of the NAHB for its decision announced Feb. 12 to freeze all contributions to federal congressional candidates through its BUILD-PAC political action committee.
A panel of economists participated in one of the more well-attended educational seminars, in which NAHB chief economist David Seiders described a relatively optimistic forecast. In his picture, the housing market will see an upturn either in late 2008 or early 2009. The economy as a whole will avoid recession, partly due to the federal economic stimulus plan.
Of course, many stats presented were bleak. One chart showed building permits in all 50 states—every single state showed some degree of decline compared to 2005. “The wildcard in 2008 is the number of houses in foreclosure,” said Seiders. “It’s very difficult to estimate.”
Attendance was described by the NAHB as down 11 percent from record highs of the 2006 show, and some attendees said they observed a noticeable decline in traffic. Still, IBS generated 1,900 booths at the show.