Advancements in wood preservatives are giving builders and remodelers a new set of options for outdoor construction. While pressure-treated lumber was once recognized by it’s dark, greenish hue, the development of micronized copper preservatives presents consumers with a new choice, and a new look for preserved lumber.
With the introduction of the micronized preservative systems, came another exciting innovation — pressure treating color into the wood. The preservative technology that allows copper to be micronized into small particles can be applied to iron oxide pigments. This is similar to the process used in the manufacture of most quality exterior paints and stains. Lumber products can now be pressure treated with rich colors, similar to natural redwood, cedar or exotic wood species. In addition, the micronized iron oxide pigments act as UV blockers, helping to protect the wood from the negative effects of sunlight and weathering. In the past, adding color to preserved lumber meant pre-staining the products prior to pressure treatment, or using an in-solution dye. Unfortunately, the color offered little longevity and quickly faded. Water-repellent additives can also be blended with micronized color pigments during the pressure treatment cycle. The combination of both these components provides a level of protection and beauty, not previously available in a preserved lumber product.
“…I used it for a deck around my pool, which has been in place now for three years. It looks as good today as the day it was built.”*
“…I can’t imagine going back to regular pressure- treated lumber for our outdoor projects.”*
Beyond the doors of your average home improvement retailer, the world of lawn and garden equipment hasn’t entirely been flipped on its axis (unless you’re talking about Briggs & Stratton’s Mow’n’Stow technology, which enables lawnmowers to be stored vertically, or Troy-Bilt’s new Bronco Axis Vertical-Line Tiller, which features vertical tines).
Even with newfangled contraptions like robotic mowers on the rise — a market that’s gained more traction in Europe for the time being — there’s been “nothing earth-shattering” for the category in terms of recent innovation, says Jeff Ridgeway, Do it Best’s merchandise manager for outdoor power equipment. Instead, the retailers that are pulling ahead in this segment seem to be the ones that recognize the customer’s desire to be up close and personal with the product.
In Ridgeway’s view, the biggest thing that’s changed about the way consumers shop for lawnmowers is the amount of information they have at their fingertips — prior to ever walking in the door.
“Consumers are really more educated with high-dollar investment-type purchases, so a lot of the time when they’re coming to the door, they’re really looking to qualify some research they did online,” he said. “They’re looking to confirm their decision.”
In that sense, it seems the Internet may never eradicate the customer’s need to see, touch and feel the merchandise. For Edward Casey, buyer at California chain Friedman’s Home Improvement, a diverse brand assortment does much to sweeten the deal.
“It’s about depth and breadth,” he said. “I don’t want to say we’re completely unique, but we’re a little bit different than the average home improvement store in that although we’re family-owned, we’re still a very large format. Someone can come into our stores and [visit] the outdoor power [section] and shop from five brands of equipment,” among which are leading names like Husqvarna, Remington and Troy-Bilt.
Friedman’s manages to be a standout player in outdoor power equipment for Do it Best, and that’s despite the fact that California has dealt with more than its fair share of drought issues over the last few years. One secret to its success is in-store organization.
“Our philosophy in merchandising outdoor power equipment is the same as throughout most of the rest of the store,” Casey said. “We prefer not to merchandise by brand — we prefer to [organize products] by product category. So if someone is looking for lawnmowers, they’re all together and they’re organized by price point.” Beyond cost, consumers are also concerned with features, Casey said.
Most mowers these days come with overhead valves, which are easier to start, last longer and provide more power, according to Ridgeway — that’s a result of consumer demand.
Battery technology is also going through some shifts, with improvements in lithium batteries as well as significant movement in cordless models (that’s where string trimmers, blowers and hedge trimmers are concerned).
And who knows? With a lowering in price point, smart mowers may become a contender in the United States. Husqvarna currently leads the robotic lawn care market, according to a recent report by ABI Research.
For the time being, demand for power lawn and garden equipment continues to grow at a projected steady clip of 4.0% annually through 2017, according to a 2013 report by The Freedonia Group.
Sell Sheet: Tool District
The reigning single-location rebate leader achieved a patronage dividend of $833,843, more than twice that of the next-highest retailer.
The secret? Aggressive pursuit of online sales.
Blackwood, New Jersey-based Tool District — whose flagship property is tooldistrict.com — swims in deep waters, selling industrial supplies and building materials across the country.
“It’s definitely exciting,” said Anthony Bogucki, co-founder with his brother, Vince. “It’s about being ahead of the curve.”
The Bogucki family, clearly born with prominent entrepreneur genes, rode an exciting e-commerce wave that started in the hunting and sporting goods industry. That eventually led to selling hardware, after supplying materials to government agencies (including overseas embassies).
“We consistently review how to improve,” Anthony said. “And if you look at the stats, most of the purchases are coming from mobile devices.”
Anthony said the partnership with Do it Best Corp. helped propel their growth.
“With the $3 billion in buying power from Do it Best Corp. and with our service and pricing, once the customer sees what we’re able to offer, that’s when they make the jump.
“It’s refreshing that we can compete on that level with companies like that,” he added.