Less Garage Is More
By Bill Esler | Posted: 05/23/2011 3:49PM
Garages double as rec rooms. Images courtesy New Age Products.
April marked the 6th annual National Garage Organization Month. Instigated as a marketing gambit by Whirlpool’s Gladiator GarageWorks division, the event offered how-to advice (coupled with discounts on its organizational products) to help consumers reclaim the use of their garages.
Gladiator GarageWorks also commissioned Smith-Dahmer Associates to study homeowner behaviors when it comes to garages. What they found after conducting dozens of interviews is that when dealing with the garage, homeowners suffer from space constraints, disorganization and visual clutter. In other words: it’s like other home organization projects, only bigger. Consumers told researchers they saw the benefit of a garage organization system, but did not know where to look for one or how to get started. Once again: just like any home organization project.
“No one likes to be disorganized. But sadly, disorganization has become the norm in many garages as other rooms take precedence,” says Mario D’Ovidio, general manager, Gladiator GarageWorks.
Gladiator GarageWorks says it is the only garage organization system to offer coordinated appliances designed for the harsher garage environment. Its pre-assembled and ready-to-assemble lines are aimed at do-it-yourselfers and are sold through local garage dealers, and retailers including Sears and Lowe’s.
For years homeowners downplayed their garage, using it as a catchall for things with no home elsewhere in the house. But a transition in recent years has found garages serving increasingly as the primary entrance to the home. As a result, there has been a trend to make them more presentable.
The latest data from the Census Department indicates another trend affecting garage organization business: Homes are getting smaller. Likewise garages are downsizing. The share of homes with three-car garages fell from 19.4 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2009, according to the National Assn. of Home Builders. Garage sizes vary depending on market. In new construction, nationwide, 62 percent of new single-family homes completed in 2009 had two-car garages, says NAHB, citing Census Bureau statistics, while 17 percent had garages for three or more cars.
Regionally, the differences in sizes are significant. According to the NAHB analysis, three-car garages were found in 11 percent of homes in the Northeast and the South; in 30 percent of Midwest homes, and in 26 percent of the homes in the West.
Another trend affecting garages is the renewed U.S. love affair with automobiles. As car sales have perked up, many owners treat their auto as a prized possession, pampering it. Garages become showcases for the automobiles they house. Don Shultz, CEO of PremierGarage Systems, has built a thriving franchise business around a range of garage offerings, from basic organization to high-end display and even recreation room conversions. The deepening relationship between home organization services and the garage segment was evidenced last year when PremierGarage Systems formed a strategic alliance with Orange, CA-based Tailored Living (aka Closet Tailors LLC), a subsidiary of Home Franchise Concepts. The two partners said the franchise network is the first “to possess both interior and garage space enhancement expertise.”
The combined organization, with 70 locations, says it has completed over 70,000 installations throughout the United States and Canada. PremierGarage specializes in garage storage, organization, and concrete floor coating systems from its manufacturing and distribution centers in Phoenix and Atlanta. In part a testament to the garage organization segment’s rising star, Schultz, who worked extensively in architectural woodwork, casework, and furniture manufacturing was keynote speaker for the May 2011 Woodworking Industry Conference of wood machinery manufacturers.
What Consumers Want
The annual benchmark studies of home storage solutions trends by CLOSETS magazine attest to the increased popularity of garage makeovers. Results of the 2011 “State of the Closet & Home Organization Industry” study, delivered at Closets Expo in February, found 77 percent of home storage solutions firms had installed a garage system in 2010.
Forty-eight percent of garage projects ranged between $2,500 and $4,999 in value, a 50 percent increase in this level of client investment since 2008, the last time the study was done. (See sidebar below.)
The top most requested feature in a garage project was for cabinets, specified by 94 percent of customers, up from 77 percent in 2008. In descending order requests were for:
• Cabinets 94%
• Slatwall 67%
• Shelves 65%
• Countertops 64%
• Workbench 61%
These items were followed by hanging racks, flooring, lockers, overhead bins and appliance placement.
Homeowners may be downsizing garages in new construction homes, but reorganizing and remodeling garage interiors with storage solutions to lift heavy items into storage continues to grow.
In fact, between 2008 and 2010, home organization businesses with manufacturing operations saw 20 percent growth in this category, according to the 2011 “State of the Closet & Home Organization Industry” benchmark study, Delivered by CLOSETS magazine publisher Laurel Didier at Closets Expo 2011 in Charlotte, NC, around 5 percent of home organization systems manufacturers surveyed listed garages as their primary product. “It's clearly a growth area,” says Didier. “Garages represented 12 percent of revenues for home organization manufacturers.”
About the Author
Bill EslerBill Esler, Editorial Director, Woodworking Network Bill is responsible for overall content at WoodworkingNetwork.com Woodworking Network magazine, and related newsletters. Bill also manages event programs for Woodworking Network Live conferences at the Woodworking Machinery & Supplies Expo in Toronto and Cabinets & Closets Expo. He developing audience engagement programs using custom digital printing, live lead-generating events, custom websites, and custom digital and print content. Read Bill Esler's woodworking blogs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Google+.