Here we grow again
Our summer edition places the focus squarely on dealers.
By Patrick Flannery
Welcome to Fenestration Review’s first annual summer edition. Response to this magazine in Canada’s window and door industry has been so great that we are adding this third annual issue.
And to make it a little different, and to speak to a part of our market that does not always get much attention, we are putting the focus squarely on the dealer side of the windows and door business. Our cover story discusses dealer enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and how it can deliver benefits beyond the free quoting packages that many manufacturers provide. We’ve also included reviews of some of the top commercial vans on the market by respected automotive journalist, Howard Elmer. Our first Members Directory for the Siding and Window Dealers Association of Canada is here – we hope you will find it a valuable resource for locating and contacting your colleagues in the industry.
Fenestration Review goes out to 1,114 companies across the country that have identified themselves as being primarily involved in supplying “retail windows and doors.” This is only about a quarter of our total readership, but we know that many companies that have identified as fabricators also have showrooms and do some sales, maybe a lot of sales, to end-users. Dealers deserve their own focus, as you have a quite different business model than fabricators, complete with a unique set of concerns and information needs. For one thing, those of you working in the replacement and renovation markets are involved in mass marketing – business-to-consumer – instead of the business-to-business approach of fabricators and wholesale distributors. That makes your whole company look different, right from the visitor-friendly showroom to the branding messages you advertise in popular media. Customer service is your lifeblood. Your margins depend on communication and negotiation rather than technical expertise and production efficiency. And you are on the front lines of the finger-pointing if something goes wrong with a product or an installation.
As dealers, you even have your own take on the economic statistics. A fabricator who sells to the new-build market would see nothing but downside in the latest Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation forecast that predicts a 4.1 per cent decline in housing starts in 2015 relative to 2014. But for you, there is opportunity buried in the report. For one thing, the CMHC notes a slightly elevated level of housing inventory in Canada, which means a buyers’ market where sellers are motivated to snazz up their homes. By the same token, lower prices means buyers have more money left over for renovations – including replacement windows and doors. The CMHC is also tracking trends showing a decline in the popularity of newly built single-family homes and more interest in less expensive multi-unit dwellings and older detached houses. The multi-unit boom doesn’t do much for you, but older homes with new owners means replacement sales. Even the high levels of household debt that economists warn us so sternly about could work out in your favour in a weird way. The CMHC notes that homeowners with most of their money tied up in an illiquid asset (like a house) have little choice but to sell if times get tough. So the high levels of household debt in Canada could cause a glut of resale homes on the market driving more renovation sales. As always seems to be the case lately, the price of oil drives everything. When did we turn into Saudi Arabia? Lower oil prices mean uneven results across the country for the housing market. Prices and starts are expected to decline in Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and especially Alberta, while Quebec, Ontario and B.C. are expected to perk up.
Wherever you are and whatever your fortunes, we hope you find our summer edition interesting and helpful. I welcome any and all feedback, especially suggestions from dealers on how we can make future editions even better.