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An industry marches toward smarter homes

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The home automation industry is expanding rapidly. It’s projected to be worth more than $5.5 billion in 2016, according to Companies & Markets — and it’s not just the early adopters who are recognizing the appeal of the technology.

According to a 2011 Home Security Source study, interest in home automation went up 8% and 11% in 2009 and 2010, with buzz around home automation expanding an impressive 300% in 2011. Today, a Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) study found that 47% of online households in the United States are equipped with a programmable (42%) and/or smart (12%) thermostat.

As Winston Ledet, COO of Premium Retail Sales, put it, “Staples is going into home automation — I think it shows you just how hot-topic it is.”

If it’s any indication, Lowe’s and Home Depot have been attempting to set standards for the burgeoning market with an extensive product selection for the DIY market, with Amazon chiming in on the e-commerce side. In addition to providing educational videos and buying guides for consumers, its Home Automation Store features more than 1,000 smart home products, including lighting, security, temperature control, energy management, entertainment and general home monitoring.

Thanks to “the launch of several new, innovative products that solve consumer pain points and simplify the way people use home automation technology,” said Mike Strauch, director of Amazon Tools & Home Improvement, “every major retailer is now offering home automation products, as they are becoming easier to use and more practical.”

None of this is to say that it hasn’t been a long time coming, but it’s possible that the ball may really be rolling now.

“It’s been the next big thing for the last 20 years,” said Ledet. “The predictions have outpaced the actual outcome, but the time has certainly come. What has plagued the industry has been a lack of interoperability and a lack of standards.”

What Ledet is referring to is the extent to which home automation systems are designed to work with other products. Positioning oneself to be the standard-bearer in the industry is certainly more lucrative, but there’s always the risk of alienating potential customers who are already “locked in” with another suite of products.

Then again, Ledet doesn’t seem to think these trials will last. “You have early adopters — the enthusiasts — who are willing to overlook a lot of flaws. The enthusiast will spend the weekend figuring out how to make it work. The mass market wants to plug it in and have it work. Same rings true on safety — [most people] don’t want the next door neighbor’s baby monitor to come across their music streaming. I think there are products out there that are relatively high-security, and the serious guys are most likely working on that.”

Tunnel Vision Technology found that security is overwhelmingly the motivating factor for homeowners interested in home automation systems — with 62%. In comparison, 20% were interested in the energy savings, and 14% desired the convenience factor.

It may be growing in fits and starts, but it’s certainly ballooning. If Ledet’s guesses are accurate, we’ll see triple the growth for the foreseeable five to six years.

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A forecast fit for shovel makers

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Button up your coat.

According to data gathered by Weather Trends International, provider of long-range weather guidance and sales analytics for businesses, much of the United States will trend colder than last year.

Things will likely get much wetter, also, across the South and East, according to the data.

Some temperature trends, meanwhile, are likely to depend on the time of day. Nighttime temperatures in the East are expected to run above normal levels, while daytime temperatures will be closer to normal, or even below normal trends.

There is something for shovel makers and others with an interest in snow removal to celebrate in the forecast. Snowfall will surpass the previous year’s levels and appears likely to hit the second highest level in 10 years. The final week of November presents the best chance for snow in the Northern Plains and in New England.

One of the tenents of Weather Trends International weather analysis is that a retailer must concern themselves not so much with the weather on any given period, but rather how the weather on any given period compares with the same period in the previous year.

November 2013 will start off with complicated comparisons with the previous year, especially in the Northeast, where Superstorm Sandy brought parts of the region to a halt for a prolonged period of time. In areas where stores remained open, demand for cleanup and emergency supplies will be lower. However, for stores that were closed following the storm, this year will be more favorable.

Colder and wetter weather across the western and central states will help to drive demand for seasonal categories, like space heaters. Much colder weather around the Black Friday week will bring stronger demand for cold weather items during this unofficial shoppers holiday.

Snow removal categories will see stronger demand than last year in the Northern Plains and New England.

For consumer-friendly, long-range forecasts anywhere in the world, visit wt360.com. Business services are available at wt360business.com.

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The evolution of the U.S. Hispanic construction market

BY HBSDEALER Staff

For many years, the U.S. Hispanic construction market was considered “nice to have” but reaching this segment had little or no impact on the marketing budgets of retailers and manufacturers. However, with the dramatic growth rates, documented industry penetration and impressive purchasing power of that segment in recent years, the U.S. Hispanic construction market has gained serious attention in marketing budgets and is now a legitimate discussion in the C-suites when considering how to achieve positive change in the bottom line.

Growth of the market

The U.S. Hispanic worker accounts for a large percentage of the construction and building maintenance occupations. In fact, more U.S. Hispanic men work in construction and building maintenance than any other field (Simmons Spring 2011).

In addition, the growth rate of the Hispanic construction and building maintenance workforce is increasing rapidly, even as the total construction workforce is declining (2000 – 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor). With projections on a linear trend, we forecast that by 2025, 43% of the entire U.S. construction workforce will be Hispanic.

Purchasing power

Some construction fields are already dominated by Hispanics and, as such, are driving those industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 77% of plasterers and stucco masons and almost 60% of drywall installers in this country are Hispanic. Further, 52% of concrete finishers, 46% of roofers and 41% of painters are Hispanic.

“In surveys and other research, Hispanic men typically list multiple professions when asked about the work they do,” said Kevin Kilpatrick, publisher of Constru-Guía al día magazine. Digging deeper into this in qualitative research, we found the U.S. Hispanic male does whatever he needs to do on the job site and from job to job his role may change. As a direct result of the varied types of work he does, he buys product from many products categories.

There is a common misconception that all U.S. Hispanics are laborers only and do not influence purchasing decisions. However, there is strong evidence to the contrary.

Constru-Guía al día magazine is written for the U.S. Hispanic construction market,” said Kilpatrick. “Our 2013 Readership Survey found that while 26% of those who receive Constru-Guía al día are non-supervisors and/or laborers, the majority (74%) are owners or supervisors. They are decision-makers at the retail purchasing level and will have direct impact on which brands and services will be successful in the future.”

Reaching the U.S. Hispanic

Marketing to this segment presents some challenges — with language being the first concern.

Most Hispanic men in construction blend Spanish and English in their businesses − 42% of Hispanic owners, i.e. purchasing decision makers, say they “only or mostly” speak Spanish on the job, and another 37% report speaking “about the same” amount of Spanish and English.

At home is a different story, where the majority speaks Spanish, and in the media they prefer. “Our research has found that the Hispanic construction segment prefers their newspapers, magazines, radio and television in Spanish,” said Kilpatrick.

The issue is not whether retailers and manufacturers should market to the U.S. Hispanic, but how they’ll reach out to this dynamic, vital and growing segment.

Kevin Kilpatrick is publisher of Constru-Guía al día magazine, the website MiConstruGuia.com, an electronic newsletter and syndicated radio segments on 115 radio stations. Kilpatrick can be contacted at [email protected].

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