Volume 12, Issue 1 - January/February 2011


Finding Your Niche
Hardware Suppliers Give Customers What they Want
by Tara Taffera

It’s not a novel concept: give customers what they want and the products that best meet the needs of their market. But DWM spoke to a sampling of hardware suppliers to find out exactly what their customers are asking for—and what they are delivering.

Multi-Point Hardware
When DWM magazine highlighted its top ten innovations of the last decade, multi-point locks were high on that list (see November-December 2010 DWM, page 20.) Suppliers say this is a market that has seen a great deal of growth in the past few years. For some suppliers and manufacturers, it has served as a growth tool.

“People were so busy several years ago that they didn’t want to add new hardware to their lines,” says Sparky Godiksen, national sales manager for W and F Manufacturing. But he says in 2008 and 2009 the company added a significant amount of new customers.

“In 2010 we added 40-50 new customers,” he says. “The new customers have more than made up for the loss … Revenue has been up and the multi-point lock has been our winning product.”

Tim Eggebraaten, sales director, Amesbury’s door hardware division, agrees with this assessment as well.

“When business was busy, the focus for manufacturers was on getting product out the door. They wanted to look at solutions you had—they did not have time to look for something new. That has changed,” he says. “But with customers downsizing they have placed more of the burden back to Amesbury. Thankfully our company invested in innovation and added people during the downturn and we came out with a lot of new products, which attributed to our success during the downturn.”

Tim O’Dell, Ashland Hardware’s product manager for doors, explains why multi-point products are so popular with manufacturers and the end consumer.

“As the demand for higher structural and energy performance grows as manufacturers try to achieve new R-ratings, U-values and DP ratings, multi-point locks continue to play a more critical role in meeting and exceeding these demands for doors and windows. In addition, with more locking points comes the added home security benefits for the consumer.”

Eggebraaten agrees that security is a primary concern for homeowners and that this accounts for the growing interest in multi-point locks.

“Customers are trying to differentiate their products and find cost-effective solutions that work better from a product standpoint,” he says. “With hinged doors we’ve found that consumers are looking for added security in hinged doors. Security has become a huge issue.”

O’Dell adds that consumers also are looking for smooth operating hardware to engage those multi-points.
Jason Annes, Ashland’s product manager for casement windows, points out that multi-point locks are important for casement windows as well.

“As for easier operation for larger casement windows, the need for a progressive lock-up mechanism is essential to gradually zipper the window closed across the lock points, and it provides a smooth and consistent lock force regardless of the window size,” he says.

This market hasn’t stopped growing; instead, suppliers will continue to develop products that meet the growing needs of customers.

“In the next few years we’ll continue to meet higher structural targets more efficiently with less material, easier fabrication, and faster installation methods,” adds O’Dell. “In turn, there will be enhancements centered on ease of use, intuitive functionality, and concealed hardware working in the ‘background’ to deliver a premium door edge appearance.”

Accommodating Larger Sash Sizes

Another growth area for windows includes constant balance systems that can accommodate heavier sashes, according to David Kline, sales director, Amesbury’s window hardware division.

“From a market standpoint there seems to be a push toward constant balance systems and heavier weight bearing capacity as sashes are getting so much heavier [as many manufacturers move toward triple-glazed units],” he says. “The balance systems need to focus on those larger-sized units.”

He adds that this doesn’t just apply to hung windows but sliding windows as well; however, Kline says the former has served as a growth area for the company.

“Some of the peripheral hardware has changed,” he says. “People are looking for flush mounts, window locks, tilt latches and window opening limiting devices, to name a few.”

Finding Your Niche in a New Economy
When it comes to trends, each supplier’s niche market varies. Kathleen Howlett, marketing and communications manager for Functional Fenestration, based in Hawthorne, Calif., says the company has found a niche in sliding doors for interior and exterior applications.

“Our specialty is high-quality products so we serve more niche markets,” says Howlett. “The interest in high-end options is surprisingly strong, including stainless steel hardware.”

She also has noticed a psychological shift on the part of the

“Customers are now looking more long-term—10-20 years for their products to last,” says Howlett. “Our products are designed to last that long, so people are more willing to invest in a product that will last more years, have a longer warranty, and be more sustainable than other products.”

Howlett points out that homeowners are staying in their homes longer than before so they are willing to pay for upgrades that will last. Eggebraaten echoes that sentiment, saying that “retrofit-type products are what’s mostly selling.”

“Vinyl retrofits are selling at high level,” he adds. “That was driven by the tax credits. A lot of customers are focusing their attention there—we’re still seeing strong sales. November was way above plan, but we worry that the first quarter will take a dip [when the $1,500 credit expires].”

Indeed, O’Dell admits that the industry is in a new economy.

“The bottom line is it’s all about offering more value at a reasonable price to door manufacturers in our new economy,” he says.


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