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January/February 2004

Supplier Know - How

Wood-Substitute Products
Are You Ready for the New Millwork Generation?

by Art Ramey

Wood substitute products are growing rapidly, by as much as 20 percent or more per year, and this trend is expected to continue for many years. 

Smart marketers are positioning their wood-oriented companies to integrate all, or at the very least a large portion, of their architectural window and sash components, doors and mouldings, toward this ever-expanding opportunity.

Do you have a wood substitution plan for your company? The trend will continue, as the market is huge. Independent research has shown that the combined minimum revenue from exterior wood and wood-substitute trim sold per year is approximately $5 billion. Record new housing starts and inventory of more than 80 million existing homes built post-World War II are fueling this great demand.

The common theme at all market levels and channels is do it once, do it right and never go back to more maintenance and replacement and liability. Homeowners no longer want to spend their very limited leisure time on home repairs, repainting and replacement of products. 

Most of all, unhappy homeowners are demanding product performance improvements and are willing to pay a higher price when the benefits are presented as an upgrade using cellular or rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) materials. While the initial cost may be more, the use of wood substitutes has become a long-term solution for homeowners who want only the most minimal, if any, home maintenance for the interior or exterior of their homes.

If you are preparing to integrate your current business to wood-substitute products, here are some things you need to consider as you go through the process.

Create a team of your best people across all departments of your company, from research and development and marketing to sales and distribution. You need to be certain that your current business can indeed support such an integration, and that means input from all key members of your team.

Gather all of the existing product and materials information available on wood substitutes. Research into this enormous market must be comprehensive to ensure that integration is a smooth and profitable fit for your company.

Review your company’s product lines to note where you have the best opportunities, as well as where you and your customers may have some product maintenance and replacement risk to consider.

Price the product to improve company margins and your customer’s margins.
Train your customers to up-sell value. While the product will almost certainly cost more initially, a wood substitute’s long-term attributes will result in tremendous savings in both money and time because maintenance will not be an issue.

Promote the benefits of cellular vinyl and PVC products. The days are gone where you apologize for the “plastic” word—the benefits are instantly understood and appreciated by the customer. A few of the most key benefits for wood-substitute products would include:
• It cuts and nails better than wood and may be installed with nails or exterior glue; 
• Wood-substitute products are 
low maintenance, strong and durable, repaintable and moisture 
resistant;
• They will not split or crack; and
• Wood substitutes help to improve a home’s insulation.

Make a commitment early in 2004 to get into the wood substitute industry. Through careful research and consideration of where to integrate the product into your company, determine the start of your entry into this area. 

Don’t let your competitors force you into quick decisions just to save a part of your existing business. Selling and marketing these wood-substitute products are profitable and fun ways to grow your business. Every sales person enjoys something new to show the customers, and the long-lasting benefits of wood substitutes make it something customers will embrace readily. Smart planning now for the integration of wood substitutes will ensure that you enter this part of the market when your company is ready, bringing a new element of success to your business.


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