Without leaving, vinyl siding makes a comeback
By the best estimates of the Vinyl Siding Institute, last year was the first year since 2004 that shipments of vinyl siding and soffit have shown a year-over-year increase.
For all that time — and longer — vinyl has remained the nation’s leading choice for exterior cladding. Census Bureau reports show that 110,000 out of 368,000 single-family homes sold in 2013 were built with vinyl siding as the main exterior material. Wood? A mere 11,000.
The strength of vinyl is no surprise to Jonathan Wierengo, VP marketing for the Tapco Group, who sees improved technology combining with customer tastes working in the favor of Tapco’s The Foundry division.
There are color options — more than 300 for vinyl — and a low-maintenance story that are gaining converts among younger (in other words, stylish and busy) homeowners. Also, siding technology has advanced to make more realistic grain patterns and better butt edges, he said.
“It’s not the vinyl siding I used to see on my parents’ house in the 1970s and ’80s,” Wierengo told HCN.
For instance, The Foundry’s Weathered Collection Shakes have been built with darker hues in deep grooves and lighter shades on the ridges and high points, to better imitate the real thing.
“Our goal is to make realistic products that replicate nature,” Wierengo said.
True Value Corp. CEO John Hartmann’s first mission was to meet as many dealers as fast as possible. In his first three-and-half-months on the job, he talked to some 450 retailers at 13 roundtable events around the country.
Hartmann took over the co-op’s CEO spot officially on May 31, replacing Lyle Heidemann. There was a lot to cover in his first official HCN interview, which touched on Home Depot, the FBI and the new name for the co-op’s Chicago headquarters.
On his first four months
“Taking the time to listen to the membership to find out what’s working is particularly important, especially for a new leader. I’ve been to 13 round-tables around the country — met 400 to 500 members face to face. I’ve heard, most importantly, our members want to grow. They want to grow individually, and they want to grow collectively.”
On the new “Retail Support Center”
“When I said [during the General Session] we’re renaming the headquarters from the retail headquarters to the retail support center, that was the first spontaneous applause. And I think that’s a pretty significant signal of where this company is going.”
On previous CEO Lyle Heidemann
“I think Lyle did a terrific job of setting True Value on a course to shift from a pure wholesaler to more of a retail-focused company. But I think our journey now is to shift beyond that and become more of a consumer-focused company. Everyone in that value stream — from the consumer to the retailer to the co-op to the vendors — benefits from a focus like that.”
On his background as an FBI field agent
“People’s vision of the FBI is what they take away from television and the movies. But the typical field agent makes his living by speaking and getting information. It taught me how to have a conversation, and more importantly, it taught me how to keep my mouth shut and listen.”
On the competition
“I respect the competition, I know (Home Depot CEO) Frank Blake, I know the people there. The big boxes are doing well because they’re relevant. You gotta give them points for that. HD in particular. It matters less to me who the competitor is, whether it’s the big box, whether it’s Amazon. Or whether it’s another hardware store. What really matters to me is how relevant the stores are.
An example of a good hardware store
“Cole’s Hardware in Danville, Pa. It’s an 11-store chain. They have taken the core hardware business, and they are terrific partners with us. They modified it gently to fit their communities. A terrific mix of products and family-driven customer service, where they have made the emotional connection with their customer. And that’s just one of many stores.”
On hardware store success
“Independent retailers, doesn’t matter what flag they fly, must get and remain relevant to the new generation of consumers.
“I’m 50 years old. I’m old now. When you look at the demographics of the country, it can’t be your granddad’s hardware store anymore.”
Before and after: Huntington Lumber & Supply Co.
Before: If David and John Huntington, owners of Huntington Lumber & Supply Co., had known that their much-needed expansion would eventually bring them daily personal thanks from their customers, they might have gotten around to it much sooner. Despite the fact that the third-generation lumberyard in Hazlehurst, Miss., was overflowing past its 2,000-sq.-ft. parameters, the two brothers were hesitant to remodel, even dodging house calls from Do it Best territory manager Roy Jones, who they thank now for pushing them to do it.
Conceived in the late 1920s, their grandfather’s store originally consisted of lumberyards and sawmills. It moved to its current location in 1962 and became part of Do it Best in 2001. Despite all the transformation, the store itself was virtually unchanged from when their father built it.
“We had a 3,000-sq.-ft. showroom, and probably some of the original dust from ’71 was in it,” John said. “Dad was really big into building materials. He didn’t really care about selling nuts and bolts. He thought that was a little ridiculous. And so we kind of realized that as the other hardware stores in town and the other lumber places closed around us, we really needed to do something to fill the void, possibly before someone else came in and did it.”
Solution: David and John made the decision to expand in the face of the recession, which had then just begun. After some planning and research, the original store and existing sheds were torn down to make way for the construction of a new building. Together with Sunbelt Racks, one of the vendors they worked with on the project, they also built an L-shed, T-shed and a drive-through lumberyard.
In consultation with Do it Best and its RetailPLUS! Team, the Huntingtons built a new 15,000-sq.-ft. store, using most of the real estate they had available to them.
After: It’s hard to deny the advantage of this particular expansion. Sales increased from the full year prior to opening in April 2011, and the following full year saw a sales increase of 82%, plus margins that were up six points.
The new store introduced an entirely new market to Huntington Lumber & Supply Co., with lots of female customers and a dramatic spike in SKUs — 24,000 new products, to be precise.
“We have shopping carts,” David said. “I never owned a shopping cart in my life.” Beyond the hard numbers, the brothers cite a happier staff, less loss, more organization and plenty of gratitude from their expanded customer base.
“I had people coming up to me almost daily for the first couple of months,” John said. “Two years in, I still have people who come in and thank us for doing that. That’s just amazing to me that someone would thank me for having this store. I’m like, ‘No, thank you for coming in.’ ”