So when Stiles Machinery, Hafele America and Stevens Industries come together to share, we should all listen!
Here's what's trending now:
Business in the closet segment is growing. These leaders shared with the group that in some areas, there's as much as a 30% growth in the closet segment business in the last year, with the same amount of growth projected for the coming year.
Additionally, closet business owners should be aware that there is really a merging of technology, home storage and organization opportunities. Many businesses are combining scenarios for the kitchen, bath, office and garage for total home organization.
“Higher end” products are seeing extremely strong sales increases (which also means higher end designs!). Stevens indicated that their sales of white melamine have decreased while sales of textured melamine has increased dramatically.
In the product evolution, you can see how the look and feel of melamine has grown from a predominantly fine grain finish to softext and now open grain and linen finishes. Mike Gibson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Stevens indicated that the rustic looks are seeing the highest levels of growth.
There's also more availability of smaller quantities, so small businesses don't need to purchase full crates in order to offer the latest styles and colors to their clients. They have a distributor network set up to help with this issue.
Another newsworthy addition from Stevens Industries is that while they used to sell only panels, they now have a program that offers matching HPL edge, HPL sheet goods, HPL doors and crown moldings. Also, the core for these new materials is made from 100% recycled material.
And the price point, when positioned against a veneer/wood option, is really appealing. If white melamine averages around $1.00 per square foot and veneer averages around $4.00 per square foot, the new colored textures average around $1.50 per square foot, while looking and feeling so close to what a veneer looks and feels like it was difficult to tell the difference.
If you're looking for a bit of insight in to what the future holds, Stevens indicated that bright colors and high gloss are in the works and right on trend.
In the product channel, Hafele America sees lots of traction in their LED lighting programs (with Loox being one of the largest product launches in their history) as well as growth in lighter weight closet baskets, mirrors and sliding doors.
They are also now offering a “Hafele to Order” program where they can cut things to the size you want them for your projects. This saves on shipping costs and allows you to customize things without having to invest in specific machine often required to execute the customization.
Steve Waltman, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Stiles Machinery wrapped things up with some insights on the Association of Closet and Storage Professionals (ACSP). Waltman has served on the board for many years and wanted the audience to know that the number one goal of this trade association is to elevate the level of expertise in the industry. It's a passionate and committed group that would really benefit from your support right now.
After the presentations, the group transitioned to actual machine demonstrations in the Lab area of the Stiles Machinery headquarters. Attendees got to be up close and personal with seeing how this exquisite technology and machinery functions to help businesses be more efficient and make more money.
It was a great day, even from the perspective of someone who focuses strongly on design and does not manufacture. If you ever have the chance to visit Stiles Machinery in Grand Rapids, Michigan – jump on it. The people are brilliant, the facility is amazing and the product is top-of-the-line.
And on that note, I'd like to extend a special thanks to Erik Delaney, National Sales Manager, Mike Gibson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Stevens Wood Products and Scott Markswood (Hafele Training Coordinator) and John Runyan (Hafele Product Marketing Manager Closets) for sharing such great information to help the closet industry grow and prosper.