Finding Your Niche
Hardware Suppliers Give Customers What
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.
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
“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
“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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