Exterior lighting, by the numbers
Sales of exterior lighting products jumped 21.3% in the 12 months from March 2011 to February 2012, compared with the same period in the previous year, according to the market size estimate from NPD Group’s Consumer Tracking Service. Consumers lit up their yards to the tune of $789 million during that time, with most of the spend occurring at warehouse home centers.
Solar lighting options, which allow the consumer to easily install low-maintenance lighting outside their homes, represent the largest share of the exterior lighting market. The numbers also show an emphasis on darker finishes.
Consumers aged 35 to 44 have shown steady increases in purchase incidence over the past three years, as have wealthy consumers in the $100K to $150K income range.
Price continues to be the most important consideration for both selecting a retailer to shop, and also selecting the product once the customer is inside the store. Store recommendations and warranty each jumped more than a percentage point as reasons for purchase.
Methodology: NPD data are based on monthly tracking of more than 30 home improvement-related categories and 30,000 opt-in consumers.
*2012 data reflect the period March 2011 through February 2012.
**Key: WHC: warehouse home center; MM: mass merchant; DS: department store; SS:, specialty store; HS: hardware store
*** More than one answer accepted
New products, new innovations
New products from the 2012 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas had a tremendous variety of end users in mind. Here’s a small sample.
Rolgear Ratch-it screwdrivers
Rolgear Manufacturing’s new generation of “Ratch-it” single-blade screwdrivers offers greater user ease and efficiency, including smooth and silent rotation with zero+ backlash. No longer is it necessary to release and re-grip the tool. These drivers allow for transfer of torque/rotation to the handle drive, eliminating slippage. The ergonomically sleek-shaped handle includes a molded soft grip for heightened comfort. It is also available in a “Ratch-it” Multibit model. (rolgear.com)
Premier Tech LTD Wilson ONESHOT
Premier Tech LTD’s Wilson ONESHOT is an eco-friendly weed sprayer with interchangeable, ready-to-use herbicide cartridges. ONESHOT protects flowers and plants from harmful herbicide overspray with its 7-in. protective shield that encloses the weed completely and keeps herbicide spray contained. ONESHOT’s 24-ounce herbicide cartridges are pre-mixed and ready to use. There are three solutions to choose: selective, non-selective or organic. ONESHOT also eliminates the bending, stooping and repetitive squeezing required by hand-pump sprayers. Its long handle allows users to stand comfortably during use, and a push on the handle releases a precise spray directly onto the weed. (premiertech.com)
Little Big Shot Super Nozzle
The earth-friendly Little Big Shot Super Nozzle, made from solid brass, manages water flow more efficiently, according to the company. It features “continuous” rather than “discrete” adjustments ranging from a powerful sweep to a pinpoint stream. At full open, it has the power to quickly sweep leaves and dirt from lawns and driveways without wasting water. As the knob rotates, the spray adjusts continuously to meet the watering needs of virtually any plant or shrub without overwatering. The built-in Perma-Washer will not corrode, come loose or leak. (kco-products.com)
General Tools E•Z Pro Deluxe Doweling Jig Kit
The new E•Z Pro Deluxe Doweling Jig Kit from General Tools & Instruments now includes a power drill. The kit offers a cost-effective way to produce professional Dowel joints right out of the box. Designed in-house by General’s engineering team, the Deluxe Doweling Jig Kit comes in a compact and portable storage box with pre-molded compartments for stowing all components. The kit allows users to produce three types of strong, precision dowel joints in three sizes: 1/4 in., 5/16 in. and 3/8 in. The heavy-duty aluminum jig simplifies the process and is anodized in a gold color to impede corrosion. The pointed notches on the working edges of the jig center the drill bit automatically for precise registration. All of the kit components come in a self-contained, pre-molded storage box. (generaltools.com)
COAST Products LED flashlights
COAST’s HP7 High Performance flashlight includes next-generation optics, and patented, proprietary LED innovations. Housed in a rugged 5.5-in. aluminum casing, the HP7 projects 251 lumens of light using four AAA alkaline batteries, which are included. It has a runtime of up to 10 hours and a beam distance of 643 ft. The HP7 and most new COAST LED flashlights include Pure Beam Focusing, COAST’s patent-pending optics that produces a pure, bright consistency across the entire beam; Fingertip Speed Focus Control, which keeps one hand free while the user focuses the flashlight with a thumb or finger by sliding the front bezel forward or back; and Beam Lock System, which locks the light into the precise beam size with a twist of the front bezel. (coastportland.com)
AquaOne Toilet Guardian
The environmentally friendly Toilet Guardian by AquaOne Technologies solves the problems of toilet leaks, stuck open flappers, leaky fill valves and more. If the toilet begins to run excessively, the Toilet Guardian’s integrated smart valve, designed around TI MSP430 technology, intercepts the flow of water to the toilet tank before the leak becomes a huge problem. Conversely, if the water level in the bowl gets too high, the Toilet Guardian shuts off the water supply so the user can’t flush a second time. Toilet Guardian’s audible alarm and control panel screen alert the owner of faults in the system. (thetoiletguardian.com)
FLEX-Drain downspout adaptors
The world’s first bendable drain pipe is now also blendable. Designed to offer more versatility than ever, these new FLEX-Drain color-coordinated 3-in. and 4-in. downspout adaptors are designed to match the color of a house or foundation, while the pipes match everything from mulch and grass to dirt and concrete. Part of the FLEX-Drain complete drainage solution system, these flexible, expandable new products feature the same groundbreaking technology and are made in the USA. The downspout adaptors are available in four natural colors. (flex-drain.com)
Hyde Tools Drywall Taping Knives
Hyde Tools has redesigned its line of taping knives, which includes three new, patented taping knife lines — Pro Stainless, Pro Hardwood and Pro Project tools — plus the existing line of Value Series taping knives. These tools range in size from 8 ins. to 14 ins. The Pro Stainless line of taping knives features eight new tools with a flexible, tapered stainless steel blade and soft-grip handle. The taping knife backings are non-rust aluminum, with options for a flexible and lightweight folded-aluminum style or a stiff extruded backing. The Pro Hardwood line features a patented new hardwood handle design that is smooth for comfort and easy cleanup. The 16 tools in this line have flexible, tapered blades, with a choice of blue steel or non-rust stainless. The Pro Project line offers eight tools with a flexible, tapered blue steel blade and a user-preferred, patented soft grip handle. (hydetools.com)
HIRI event showcases insights
Attendees of the 2012 Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) Spring Conference in Arlington, Va., were promised insights and resources. And even before the last of seven speakers packed up his PowerPoint, the mission was accomplished.
For instance, Mike Fratantoni of the Mortgage Bankers Association shared that the U.S. economy seemed to be on the path to a self-sustaining recovery, an assessment he qualified with a “but” and an “and.”
“The ‘but’ is that the U.S. economy is more impacted by global events than we ever have been,” Fratantoni said. Greece and Spain cause concern. But what really keeps him up at night is the idea of “difficulties with Iran and the potential spike in oil prices.”
NPD Research’s Kevin Gilbert pointed to some of the big product category winners in 2011, based on its Consumer Tracking Service. Riding mowers increased 41%, electric saws increased 33%, and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors increased 25%.
Then there’s the insight from IHS Global Insight’s James Gillula, who predicted an annual increase in consumer market home improvement products of 5.4% in 2012, following an increase of 4.1% in 2010. The professional market is expected to grow too, with a 4.0% gain in 2012, compared with a 2.9% gain in 2011.
The all-day event held April 18 at the DoubleTree Hotel Crystal City in Arlington, Va., also included presentations from the U.S. Census Bureau on the American FactFinder tool, TNS and the 2012 Product Purchase Tracking Study, and a Stevenson Co. presentation on the paths consumers take before making a decision.
The short story from several of macroeconomic presenters was that the economy is growing. The slightly longer story: The economy is growing, but not very fast. Related to the macroeconomic growth is the all-important unemployment rate. Fratantoni said the Mortgage Bankers Association forecast calls for a slow improvement, from 8.6% at press time, to 8.0% by the end of the year, and further slow improvement to 7.5% by the end of 2013.
Consumer insights factored heavily, including the unpleasant trend of showrooming. NPD’s Gilbert defined the practice this way: “When shoppers come into a store to see a product in person, only to buy it from a rival online, frequently at a lower price,” he said.
NPD Research shows that showrooming is most prevalent in the power tool aisle, a category where 9.3% of consumers visited the store to research the product and turned around and made the purchase online. Hand tools (4.7% incidence) ranked second, followed by caulk/glue/adhesives (2.9%.) (See chart: “Browsing here, buying elsewhere”)
Across all home improvement categories, the average incidence of showrooming is 2.5%, according to NPD Research
Gilbert’s recommendation for retailers confronting this new challenge: Don’t fight the Web. To win in an environment where showrooming is prevalent, the idea is to combine touch and feel of brick-and-mortar retailing with the impulse and information of the online experience. Clearly, it’s not easy, but brick-and-mortar retailers should use their in-store advantage to help the consumer, cross-promote other categories and offer online opportunities where possible, he said.
In general, Gilbert had some optimistic statistics for home improvement sales, though he described his position as “optimistically cautious.” Among them, 83% of tracked home improvement categories showed increases in 2011.
And also encouraging is the 5.7 percentage-point decrease of consumers who say they intend to spend less than they did a year ago, according to NPD’s research. “[Fewer] consumers plan to spend less,” Gilbert said. “That’s a double negative, and that’s a good thing.”
HIRI’s Fall Conference is slated for Oct. 11 in Chicago.