October  2004

Supplier Know-How


Manufacturers Should Stay Abreast of Market Trends
by Art Ramey

Entertainer Danny Kaye (1913-1987) once said, “Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint on it you can.”
In business, it is very important to place a lot of paint on the canvas in a focused way. One of the ways to ensure your future is certain is to understand the opportunities where the trends are telling you to focus your business. It is truly the age-old answer of “find a need and fill it.”

Sharon Salzerg, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, said, “Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope—a shift change, and all patterns alter.”

Trends After 9/11
So, what are the trends telling us? After 9/11, our lifestyles, trends and motivations changed in the United States. The focus turned very quickly to the basis of family and home. Flip channels on the cable or dish and see multiple programs where homes are remodeled or renovated. New programs are emerging weekly with emphasis on various sections of the home interior, exterior, garage, landscape, deck, porch and back yard.
What is the future? Everyone’s life, in one way or another, revolves around their home. This isn’t likely to change, only improve. All of us whose business it is to “fill the need” should do a reality test to understand if we are focusing on the present day and future. 

Just to support “the home is the best investment” strategy, according to USA Today, the savings rate in the United States has declined from 9.39 percent of disposable personal income in 1984 to 2.2 percent in May of 2004. Where is money going for security? Look at new home sales, resale and remodeling units, which I believe support home investment.

NAHB Identifies Trends
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently released a “Housing Facts, Figures and Trends in 2004” which stated:
• The median and average price of new and existing homes more than doubled in the last two decades of the 20th century; 
• An average 19 windows, 19 tons of cement and 13,800 board feet of framing lumber go into a new 2,272-square-foot home; and
• In the first year after buyers move into a new home, they spend an average of $8,900 to furnish, decorate and improve. Existing homebuyers spend a more modest $3,766.

A recent survey reflected that buyers overall want a home with a median size of 2,386 square feet. African Americans wanted 2,845 square feet; Asians preferred 2,583 square feet; and Hispanics, 2,480 square feet.
Houses are becoming a series of environments rather than rooms. The rooms must, however, relate to one another to create a presence for the home. House designs must guarantee an indoor-outdoor relationship. If the house has a central courtyard, every room must relate to it. If the desire is to make a seamless transition from interior to exterior, one way to accomplish this is to use the same materials inside and out.

The Dream Home Quick List
Dream home ideas and amenities play a big role in upscale selling for manufacturers, distributors, builders and retailers. Here is a quick list:
• More outdoor room, including living area, an outdoor kitchen, enhanced deck, lighting, trees, wrap-around porch and stone exterior;
• Kitchens play a vital role in a home. Important features are island workspace, solid surfaces, granite countertops, special storage areas and functional workspaces;
• Personal spaces are important to homeowners, like nooks, niches and window seats;
• Garages are becoming the 
next frontier for homeowners. Homeowners want the garage organized, with a place for dad’s, mom’s and the kids’ belongings;
• Tile, marble or hardwood floors;
• Finished attic and basement;
• Large master bedroom and bath—a master suite—on the second floor;
• Four or five bedrooms and three baths;
• Large, roomy walk-in closets, home office and entertainment center; 
• Central air, zoned heating, gas heat and two-sided fireplaces;
• A greenhouse;
• Lots of natural light adding to the natural feeling of the home; and 
• Low-maintenance or no-replacement exterior.

What used to be a luxury is becoming more standard on less expensive homes. we need to be at the forefront of creating new products with features that fit or exceed the needs. After all, the so-called “specialties in millwork” were more profitable. 


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